Actors deftly handle the intimacy and emotion of ‘Constellations’


Giving Tree Theater — through Aug. 27

Jo Jordan as Marianne and Kyle Shedeck as Roland in ‘Constellations.’ — photo courtesy of Giving Tree Theater

Bend time and space to fit Constellations at Giving Tree Theater into your schedule.

Jo Jordan and Kyle Shedeck, under the direction of Richie Akers, bring authentic emotion to a complex script by Nick Payne that explores the intersection of love’s fragility and inevitability.

Constellations is built around the notion of the multiverse — a concept familiar to comics and sci-fi fans that suggests that at each moment we make a choice, we in fact make all the available choices in different versions of the universe, each of which splinters again and again as more and more choices are made. It’s a fascinating (and mind boggling) idea that has philosophical, ethical and scientific consequences. It is also the kind of idea that could weigh a story down with complexities.

Happily, the script finds a way to handle its conceit with a light touch. Even more importantly, Jordan and Shedeck, as Marianne and Roland, always keep the emotions of their characters in the forefront, even as they cycle through various versions of the same moments in their relationship. That repetition, in which tone and details shift in big and small ways, is a technically demanding exercise for the performers, especially since it must appear effortless if it is to have emotional weight. The actors are more than up to the challenge.

Jordan and Shedeck are simply captivating throughout the production. The play is performed in the round with the audience close, but the performers are locked into one another in a way that draws us into their intimacy. When they step out of the circle to perform an essential recurring scene unfolding backwards over the course of the play, their intimacy and emotion are heightened further even as thorny questions about immutable destiny are raised by the script and the staging.

Jordan, performing in her first production in the area, is exceptional from beginning to end. Arguably, her character drives the underlying story — she seem simultaneously to have more agency and to be more in the grip of fate — and she faces some additional acting challenges which she handles with aplomb.

Shedeck is equally flawless, mining the full range of emotions as his reality shifts from scene to scene. It’s a perfect partnership and a joy to watch.

Akers’ direction is deft, ensuring there is enough movement to keep the entire audience engaged (sometimes a challenge with theater in the round) while keeping that movement natural to the action. The director also created a beautiful lighted set piece that hangs above the stage suggesting the mysteries of time and space each time the lights go down to signal a shift in reality.

Here’s the definitive reality of this production: It is masterful work. Go see it.

Constellations runs through Aug. 27 at Giving Tree Theater in Marion, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m. Tickets are $26.

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