Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 12, 2016


Berkshire Theatre Group, Stockbridge, MA
through August 27, 2016
by Shera Cohen

“Constellations” is a challenging play to mount and to understand – all the more reason to experience this intriguing little story about life and love, time and space.

Like so many new plays presented at numerous venues in the Berkshires this summer, “Constellations” is one-act, approximately 70 minutes. Yet, the size of this drama (with several bits of humor), in a sense, covers the entire universe. Stars shine on the ceiling of the intimate Unicorn Theatre at the play’s start and at the end. Just as the stars are infinite, humans are finite. Two people confront their own place on this planet, separately and together.

Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
The dialogue in Nick Payne’s play is exquisite, repetitive, fast, and non-linear. At one point, time is an eternity; next a quick moment. Simultaneously, space is the closeness of a woman and man first meeting at a barbecue; next distance of that same couple, now married. The plot? That’s a tough one. A short synopsis states that the woman is a scientist and the man works as a beekeeper. Each is smart, funny, vulnerable, and a master at communication. For example, essentially the lines are spoken three or four times. With emphasis on a single word, toss of a head, or stance, the discussion differs completely.

Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat (married in real-life) give and take their dialog at a swift pace, leaving no lulls. They discuss the mundane (including bees) and the universal (fate vs. freewill). It is somewhat hard to remember having seen this duo just last summer as the stars of BTG’s “Bells Are Ringing.” The musical was light, fun, and called for some nice vocal chords, but not the heavy duty acting in “Constellations.” Hopefully, Baldwin and Rowat keep bringing their talent to Berkshire Theatre.

Director Greg Edelman and lighting/scenic designer Alan Edwards meld what appears simple – after all, it’s just a round stage with some altering lights against a flat rectangle – to set countless small scenes. A single spot light creatively and effectively alters the present from the future, or the present for one character with the past of the other.

“Constellations” is not your typical play. Starts and stops, forwards and backwards, up and down and sideways; the script is void of chronology. Yet, it all makes sense.