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Manhattan Theatre Club and Royal Court Theatre Present "Constellations" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson
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Manhattan Theatre Club and Royal Court Theatre Present "Constellations" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson

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Manhattan Theatre Club
Royal Court Theatre
In association with
Ambassador Theatre Group and the Dodgers

(Constellations Website)

By Nick Payne

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Directed by Michael Longhurst

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson

Scenic and Costume Design: Tom Scutt
Lighting Design: Lee Curran
Sound Design: David McSeveney
Original Music: Simon Slater
Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Casting: Jim Carnahan & Nancy Piccione
Production Stage Manager: Peter Wolf
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
& Bethany Weinstein
Artistic Line Producer: Barclay Stiff

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 15, 2015

Broadway’s new play, Constellations, presented by Manhattan Theatre Club, was originally staged in the intimate Royal Court Theatre in London. And, that’s where I wish I’d seen it. At the expansive Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, the rapid British conversation, between a beekeeper (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a physics professor (Ruth Wilson), although clearly enunciated and seamlessly projected, becomes less involving than the brightly decorated set. Giant lightbulb-balloons shift in illumination and shading, like stars in the universe. In fact, one would be hard put to describe the details of the dialogue, after the intermission-less play is completed, if one were not seated in one of the front rows. Many in the audience were straining to make sense of the academic theme of physics between Roland and Marianne. But, given that Mr. Gyllenhaal is a screen star and Ms. Wilson is a Showtime star, most were happy to have experienced their talent and charisma, as well as the splendid décor, regardless of the play’s comprehensibility. Moreover, the essence of the relationship, with its many twists and reinventions, is the work’s gestalt.

That essence is related to the “multiverse”, in which decisions and all their alternates are being played out in “parallel universes”. As a former educator with a doctorate in education, I would suggest that the Director, Michael Longhurst, may have relied on some overhead projected text, or at least program inserts, to clarify the complexity of the concept. However, what is critically clear is the romance, conflict, and lifestyle of Roland and Marianne, as they worry about their physical imagery and torn emotions, in intimacy, breakups, resolutions, careers, and offstage character intrusions into their private, esoteric bubble. Early on we hear alternate conversations played out, with one destined to succeed or fail, in contrast to the other. But, because of the vast theatrical space, once again, the impact is dull. Esoteric and emotionally nuanced plays demand small theatre or theatre in the round intimacy with the audience. As example, another Royal Court Theatre production, The River, with Hugh Jackman, was staged at Circle in the Square, an intimate space in the round, with no loss of dramatic communication.

Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Wilson are both dynamic, natural actors, and they play these roles with lack of restraint and self-consciousness. They are master artists, who should be seen again soon, in future Broadway productions. But for a production like Constellations, which deserves many revivals, the audience deserves intimate proximity to the stage. Given what he had to work with, Michael Longhurst did an exceptional job, as he kept both actors moving about and relating with acute chemistry and eye contact. They also projected crisp, British dialogue with authentic accents and affect. A star of this production is Tom Scutt, who designed scenery and costumes. The costumes were more nondescript, but the illuminated bubble balloons were transporting. Lee Curran’s lighting design had the balloons turning off and on in single and group synchronization, a choreography of light, so to speak. David McSeveney’s sound could have been ramped up a bit, with some pockets of vocal haze, when Ms. Wilson was stage rear. I look forward to revisiting Nick Payne’s fine play in the future, in intimate staging.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at