Review – Constellations – Duke of York’s Theater

by

There are plays you dream of, and plays you wait for, and plays you give up hope of seeing ever again, as they swim into the depths of a pool of sold out shows and wasted time spent queueing for returns, nothing left but a closing date that flickers on your consciousness like the tail of a wily brown trout as it flies away from you, never to be seen again.

Plays, though, have occasional second lives, as very popular productions can be nearly immediately remounted in larger (and more remunerative) venues. I didn’t expect this to happen with Constellations, the Royal Court’s near mythic (amongst hardcore theater goers there are rarely so many tears) tale of love, loss, and physics: as an Upstairs show, it was at the fringes of public recognition – a new play by a newish playwright, a two-hander, even! It was hardly a crowd-pleaser like Jumpy much less a Cock (with its big name stars). So when, after weeks of trying to snag just a single ticket, I saw it had closed, I just closed down that little part of my heart that had been open to a night of amazing theater in an intimate environment. Constellations was the one that got away.

And then … It wasn’t. It was bundled with Jumpy and Posh as the Royal Court at the Duke of Yorks and suddenly they had a season and I had a second chance. But oh noes! It was in a BIG theater and oh noes! it wasn’t the sweet ticket prices that make the Royal Court a positive gift to us theater fanatic types. Yeah sure it wasn’t going to be the same, but hey, they were releasing 20 £10 seats a day, and wouldn’t it still be wonderful even in a barn? And at £10 and only 70 minutes, wouldn’t good be good enough?

The price may be too high (based on the 20% empty house – meant I could move myself into a less neck-craning spot than row AA), but I do believe the play is still very good. It’s a look at a relationship though the mirror of different concepts of time (helpfully explained by the woman to the man while they’re both drunk). Is there one universe with time happening linearly, or are there multiple universes all existing simultaneously where different things happen in each of them? Whether or not you buy the theory, it’s easy enough to understand the concept of, say, the 15 ways to people may or may not have met and become a couple at a barbeque. The universe where he was married and uptight? Not so much. The version where he is willing to try licking his elbow but is still married? You get to see some many junctions and conjunctions that it’s never clear what is supposed to be the “reality” of the show, but immensely fun to watch.

And then … And yet … It seems like, jumping back and forth in time (or perhaps across realities) that a narrative is happening, that amongst the multiplicities there is something important happening, and that the net effect is that actually, maybe we should care how the universe is shaped. It sound like it’s oh big scary too many hard ideas but it’s not, really, because in the end it’s all once upon a time, somewhere, there were some people that loved each other. And there are some balloons, and there are bees, and I’m afraid there were some tears, and maybe a few more balloons. And more tears. Two people alone in the universe. It could have/might/did happen. And I’m glad I was there for it.

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