Sunday, December 15, 2019

Compelling, superbly acted and staged “CONSTELLATIONS” at convergence continuum

On a blackboard, center-stage, a message is written.  The words state, “You are one decision away from a completely different life.”

Ah, yes, think back to the climax points of your life.  Did you say “yes” or “no” to a proposal, an opportunity, a vital decision that would have changed your very path of existence? 

This “what difference did that decision make?” is at the heart of British playwright Nic Payne’s thought-provoking two-person script, “CONSTELLATIONS,” now closing the 2019 season of convergence-continuum.

Artistic director Clyde Simon looks for uncovered gems that “challenges the imagination and extends the conventional boundaries of language, structure, space and performance” that insights his loyal groupies. Sometimes he misses, but with “CONSTELLATIONS” he has hit the proverbial “home run.”  

This is a quality script that gets an imaginative and proficient production under the focused eye of director Geoffrey Hoffman.  

The performances of Max Elinsky and Laurel Hoffman are top quality.   Each inhabits their role with clarity of purpose.  They don’t’ act.  They live their roles with complete authenticity. 

The duo is aided by the multi-talented Bobby Williams live musical sound effects and underscoring music.

“In the beginning Marianne [a cosmologist] and Roland [a beekeeper] meet at a party. They go for a drink, or perhaps they don't. They fall madly in love and start dating, but eventually they break up [or maybe they don’t]. After a chance encounter in a supermarket they get back together, or maybe they run into each other and Marianne reveals that she's now engaged to someone else and that's that. Or perhaps Roland is engaged. Maybe they get married, or maybe their time together will be tragically short.” 

“Marianne often waxes poetic about cosmology, quantum mechanics, string theory and the belief that there are multiple universes that pull people's lives in various directions. This is reflected in the play's structure as brief scenes are repeated, often with different outcomes.”  It is the basis for the play’s title and the molecule/bee hive set decorations.

Sound confusing?  It’s not. Hoffman has clearly chosen to present the series of non-connected scenes in such a way that we know this is not a linear story.  Every major event is clued by light changes (kudos to Eva Nel Brettrager’s light designs), and sounds that alert us to “pay attention.”  The actors seamlessly go back and forth, repeating lines, inventing connections that, while sometimes confounding, meld into a logical tale.

Though the presentation appears to be razzle-dazzle and abstraction, it never gives a feeling of leading the audience on through tricky writing and staging.  There is gentle humor, enough pathos and irony to grab and hold the attention.

The play’s 2012 London debut was met with strong positive reviews.

The subsequent limited-run Broadway production starred film-star Jake Gyllenhaal in his Broadway debut and Ruth Wilson, who won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.

Capsule Judgment: “CONSTELLATIONS” is one of con-con’s best stagings.  It combines a well-conceived script, superb acting and well-focused directing.  It’s a must-see experience!

CONSTELLATIONS” runs through December 21, 2019 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to