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Hard Ticket Theatre’s ‘Constellations’ explores love in parallel universes
Mark Bradbury and Rebecca Pike rehearse a scene involving all sign language.
©Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The principles of string theory, quantum mechanics and relativity have never been so emotional.
Corner Brook-based Hard Ticket Theatre is about to pull you into parallel universes with “Constellations,” a two-person play about the infinite possibilities of love and could-have-beens.
Imagine ours isn’t the only universe, and there are multiple yous making choices different than yours, taking them on completely different paths. What if you had never broken up with that girlfriend? What if you had taken the other job? Maybe another you in another universe did.
Written by British playwright Nick Payne, “Constellations” premiered in London in 2012, and crossed the pond to Broadway with a production starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson.
Hard Ticket Theatre produced the play in Corner Brook last year, and are bringing it to St. John’s through a partnership with the LSPU Hall this week. Their version stars Mark Bradbury and Rebecca Pike as the show’s only characters: beekeeper Roland and physicist Marianne, who meet at a barbecue.
Marianne explains to Roland the possibility of a multiverse, and every outcome of every decision we make could exist in an alternate version of here.
The couple’s parallel lives play out in sequence: in one scene, Roland is married; in the next version, he’s single and they go out for drinks.
“Constellation” sees the two characters — different versions of themselves each time — repeat the same scenes, each with a different outcome. There are break-ups, make-ups, affairs and a love story grieved and celebrated at different turns.
“One little thing, one little word changes everything,” said Bradbury, who is also the artistic director of Hard Ticket Theatre. Every so often the theatre troupe members will get together and bring forward interesting scripts for an informal meeting. “Constellations” was suggested a couple of years ago by Todd Hennessey (who is directing the LSPU Hall production) and Bradbury was immediately attracted to it.
“It’s an incredible play, cleverly written and a beautiful story,” he explained. “It’s the story of everyone, of all of us.”
It’s certainly the story of anyone who has replayed a particular situation over in their head, wishing or considering what would have happened if they had said or done something differently.
Though there are only really a handful of true scenes in the play (the rest are the same scenes, different universes), Bradbury said “Constellations” was perhaps the most challenging production he’s ever done, and that includes a one-man show.
“Because some of the changes (in the characters’ personalities) are so small, it’s really hard to keep your head around where you are in the script,” he said.
Sometimes the changes come down to a tone or a facial expression, Bradbury said.
“What are you doing?” as a question, for example, is entirely different from, “What are you doing!” as an exclamation of surprise.
The audience is left to fill in some of the gaps when it comes to Roland and Marianne’s back stories and the reasons they make the choices they do.
In one universe, Roland and Marianne communicate in American Sign Language, so Bradbury and Pike taught themselves how to do it. Audiences get it, Bradbury said; they know exactly what’s being said in the silence.
“It took a long time, but it was really interesting,” he explained. “We had some pointers from a teacher who told us that language is in the hands, but the emotion and intensity is in the face.”
At the end, central to the story, the couple deals with the ultimate reality of life: death.
In this production of “Constellations,” there is no set at all. Roland has a couple hand props, but apart from that, it’s just the pair seemingly in space, complemented by a changing backdrop of stars. “Constellations” is about communication, and the production relies on it.
If you had the opportunity to re-do certain scenes from your life, would you do it? For Bradbury, the answer is no.
“I don’t care if there’s an alternate universe where I’m the founder of Google,” he ruminates, chuckling. “Every decision I’ve made has brought me here. I hope the other versions of me are happy, but I’m quite happy in this life.”
“Constellations” runs Thursday until Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets (as well as a dinner-and-show package with Piatto restaurant) are available at the LSPU Hall box office, by calling 753-4531 and online at www.rca.nf.ca.