by Becca Jennings and Mary Donifrio
At some point in each of our lives, we’ve all wondered, ‘What if?’ ‘What if I had pursued another career?’ ‘What if I’d never met so-and-so?’ ‘What if I had never moved out of my home town?’ ‘What if I hadn’t lost that bet?’ ‘What if I could have told that person that I was sorry?’
What if…all of these scenarios were possible? Perhaps not in this world, but in another…or another? What if our universe is not alone, but is instead just one in a series of universes—all very much alike, but with subtle variations. The multiverse theory posits this very idea, as does our second show of the Stage III series, Constellations by Nick Payne.
Unconventional in form, Constellations’ non-linear script tells a story of infinite possibilities for life and love, and asks the question, ‘In a multi-universe full of variables, is anything inevitable?’
Performing this mind-warping tale is an intimate cast of two characters: Marianne, a quantum physicist, and Roland, a beekeeper. Despite their differences, Marianne and Roland’s coincidental meeting has an undeniable impact, which defies space and time.
“By chance, I watched a documentary […] and it was amazing,” recalled playwright Nick Payne of his inspiration to write Constellations in an interview with Royal Court Theatre. “[The documentary] was a history of contemporary theoretical physics, and right at the end [it] touched on this idea of the multiverse.” Following the science documentary, Payne put pen to paper and birthed the play that would go on to win the 2012 Evening Standard Award for Best Play, making Payne, who was 28 at the time, the youngest playwright to win the award…in this universe, at least.
Several famous faces have helped bring this cosmic tale to life. When Constellations made its stateside debut on Broadway, it starred famed actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, who went on to win a Tony Award for her performance as Marianne. Other stars who have performed the award-winning work include Rafe Spall (Hot Fuzz; The Life of Pi), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky; Blue Jasmine), Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time; Big Love), and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey; The Imitation Game).
Since its 2012 premiere, the play has been performed widely in the United States in cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, and Chicago.
But whichever city, universe, or alternate reality Constellations heads to next, it’s sure to test the concept of destiny, leaving both believers and skeptics, alike, wondering, ‘What if?’
FST’s production of Constellations by Nick Payne is directed by Associate Director At-Large Kate Alexander. The play stars Alexis Hyatt as Marianne and Chris Tipp as Roland. Both Hyatt and Tipp were previously featured in this season’s Stage III opener, How to Use a Knife by Will Snider.