The evening at the Lindsay Little Theatre began with a choice of a cocktail or, for those who don't imbibe, a mocktail. Blue in colour and not too sweet, the refreshment was a nice way to welcome guests. At seven, Andrew Bain and his slide guitar appeared on stage. His voice is smooth and professional. You'd never know he's missing pieces from two fingers on his left hand. Though he denies it, Bain sounds as though he's been playing in lounges his whole life.
The stage was set with filmy gauze draped over twinkle lights, provided by Heather and Isaac Breadner, in an otherwise darkened theatre.
Before the play, the audience was invited to enjoy a lovely spread of food, provided by the director, Kathryn Woolridge-Condon, with assistance from Dylan Robichaud. Hors d'oeuvres included a selection of meats, stuffed dates, tiny toasts with cucumber and honey-- appropriate since one of the play's characters is a beekeeper.
The house was decorated in twinkle lights, star-shaped balloons, and poignant quotes on the walls. And before leaving for the night, we were given a tiny pot of local honey to take home. The evening was like being invited to an intimate, thought-provoking dinner party.
Our host for the evening was stage manager, Shannon Peters-Bain, who provided direction for the evening, explained the quantum multiverse, and recited a lovely poem by T.S Eliot.
And then we were treated to the main event, "Constellations" by Nick Payne, starring Miranda Warren and Seamus McCann.
Normally an actor would play a single character who's put through scenarios within a single story that progresses from beginning to end. Normally scenes can be as much as a half hour in length. But Constellations isn't like other plays. Scenes were as little as a few seconds and as long as a few minutes. Each time the lights came up, the same two actors, playing the same two characters, would appear, but the characters would be slightly different versions of themselves. This is the quantum multiverse at work.
You don't need a degree in theoretical physics to understand the play-- just imagination. The play asks us to believe in the quantum multiverse, that is, when we make a choice, another universe exists that follows the path of the option we didn't take. Given all the choices we make in our lives, this theory provides for infinite possibilities. Imagine if you'd never met your spouse. That universe exists somewhere. Imagine if you'd never crashed your car. That universe exists somewhere. And so on.
There is still an overall progression of scenarios from beginning to end. Initially we see many brief scenes of Roland and Marianne meeting for the first time. In some meetings, one or both are already in relationships. In all of these meetings, we laugh at the awkward moments. Then we move through several more versions of Roland and Marianne falling in and out of love with each other-- or with other people. Next, we move through more versions of Roland and Marianne finding each other again years later. And finally, we see the couple face Marianne's brain cancer diagnosis-- and all the possibilities therein.
The story is mainly driven by Marianne, the physicist. She sees Roland, initiates conversation with him. Later, she invites him to her home, but has to decide if he's staying the night or not. Will she accept Roland's proposal or not? Will she break up with him or not? Will she let him love her while she's dealing with brain cancer or not? Roland, a humble beekeeper, is always asking questions, always trying to understand Marianne. This echoes the secondary theme of communication that runs though the play and is most profoundly demonstrated by one scene in which the actors communicate entirely in sign language.
Having to play multiple versions of a character has to be gruelling on the actors. In one scene, they might be kissing. In the next, arguing. In the next, physically fighting. In the next, sharing a tender, heart-filled moment. In the next, dealing with loss. Roland might be shy in one scene, confident in the next, cocky in the next. There are pieces of the characters that remain recognizable, but they are also affected by their choices, and in the multiverse, this means many different versions of the self. But Miranda Warren and Seamus McCann handle challenge like pros. It's easy to forget this is a humble volunteer-based theatre.
The play is much like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel, and the audience can pick and choose which of the scenes to take with them.
Those in the audience who would prefer to be immersed in a single story, getting to deeply know a few characters, would have trouble enjoying this play because of the brevity of the scenes and the multiple versions of the characters. And yet, "Constellations" is emotionally engaging. There were moments when the audience gasped in surprise. There were moments of collective tension. There were moments of tears.
You might think a play with so many scene changes, so many versions of characters, would be bleak or detached. Instead, we are reminded of how brief life is, how little time we have with each other, and how any of our choices could completely change our lives. Which is why, in the end, we are left with hope.
our event announcement: "Constellations" at Lindsay Little Theatre