Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Constellations—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

“Star-Crossed Lovers”

This existential, dark comedy is written by Nick Payne and directed by Chris Coleman (PCS’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through June 11th (parking can be a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

“If we are Here, then we’re not There.  And, if There, then we are not Here” (anonymous).  If you understood that statement, then you have a clue as to the complexity of the subject matter this play is dealing with.  It is, in an odd way, really a love story, since those are proverbially, “…stories as old as time.”  But it is related in such as way, with just two characters, Marianne (Dana Green) and Roland (Silas Weir Mitchell), with minimal set and props, that it is very identifiable to many romances.

It is also told in such way as it encompasses, not only many years, but many dimensions, and so the outcomes of the story are multilayered.  Theories do exist that there are multiple, perhaps, infinite, alternate universes out there and there would be just as many outcomes for relationships, as well.  And so, the style of the story has many hiccups, starts and stops, as some of them are explored, but in bits and pieces.

Two strangers meet, such as Marianne and Roland, but in some scenarios they never consummate the relationship.  After a few false starts, they do connect and move in together, with varying results.  Some possible outcomes, have them getting married, or splitting up, finding other mates, becoming friends later on, and even dealing with tragedy together.  The possibilities are endless.  And the style of this play, in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, provides peeks into many of them and, if told in a linear way, following only one of the possible plots, would takes only a few minutes.

Another way of looking at it is to picture those moments when you knew you were at a crossroads in your life, and made a decision that would carve a path in another direction.  I know I can think of a few instances and have always wondered what would have been alternate outcomes for me if I had chosen a different direction.  Now, multiply that curiosity a hundred times to other possible outcomes, and you will have an inkling of what this play is postulating.  So, without being a spoiler, I can’t reveal any more of the plot because, for one reason, I have already given you a thumbnail sketch of it in the above paragraph and, for another, the story is not the point, the style is, and you will have to view that for yourself.

Coleman has done an excellent job of keeping the audience engaged by subtle movements of the characters, pauses and employing bits of business that keep one’s attention.  His casting of the two actors is spot on, as both Green and Mitchell are perfect in these parts.  How the devil they memorized all the stops and starts this piece has, and not gotten confused, is beyond me.  They are amazing!  The clever set design by Jason Sherwood and lighting by William C. Kirkham, to connect the passages of time and space, greatly help with the success of this production, too.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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