Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 29, 2018


TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through February 18
by Jarice Hanson

Director Rob Ruggiero has crafted an intimate look at personal relationships in the fascinating “Constellations” currently playing at Hartford’s TheaterWorks.

Upon entering the theater, composer-musician Billy Bivona is playing electric guitar, creating music that compliments and underscores the shifts of emotion and energy generated on the bare circular arena stage.  A bright circle of light above the stage dims and the theater ceiling explodes with light, giving the illusion of the cosmos.  From the moment the actors begin to speak, you know this 75 minute one-act is going to be unique.

Photo by Lanny Nagler
Allison Pistorius (Marianne) is a Cambridge University theoretical physicist who explains many of the themes of the show that bridge the worlds of theoretical and quantum physics by translating them into questions of free will versus destiny and fate.  M. Scott McLean (Roland) is a beekeeper who expounds on the lifecycle of the bee and the specialization that is integral to the maintenance of hive life.  These two gifted actors guide us through the multiverse—the hypothetical set of possibilities that make up what we, the audience, recognize as love, loss, mortality, and possibility.

Don’t let the scientific jargon fool you.  This play focuses on how we make decisions and live with the consequences. The play is described as a romance, but the rapid fire dialogue draws the audience to these characters in an almost dizzying fashion.  We become a part of their universe, and in so doing, explore why we exist and the existential dilemma of finding our purpose in a world that will go on without us, whether we want to admit it or not. 

The brilliantly crafted script is by Nick Payne, a British playwright who won the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play in 2012 with “Constellations.” As I watched, I felt that it was part scripted play, and part performance art.  Bivona’s ethereal electric guitar music (a brilliant addition by Ruggiero) so tunes us into our senses, the words and gestures of the actors become extensions of our sense of self.  This intelligent, accessible portrayal of a romantic relationship is what romance is all bout—the transformation of what we say into what we can feel.