Black Box Experimental Theater is an intimate contemporary venue in Colorado Mesa University theatre program. Constellations, a play written by Nick Payne and directed by Cody Rees, is a non-linear love story with only two characters: A beekeeper named Roland (Isaac Stackonis) and a physicist named Marianne (Tabitha Storm).
The set is peculiar: hanging above the stage are twinkling lights mixed with an array of odd fixtures, such as a lone telephone, a red ladder, a wagon wheel, an ornate ceiling fan, a bicycle, a wooden chair, a crutch and a violin. A change in lighting is the only indication of a different scene, a technique that director cultivated to perfection.
Within the first few moments, Marianne meets Roland at a soggy barbeque and attempts to convince him to lick his elbow because ‘the secret to everlasting life is at your elbow, you can live forever if you can touch your elbow with your tongue.’ Roland appears not interested. With a flash of light, the characters reintroduce themselves using the same script in slightly different wording and a slightly different reaction.
“Physicists have arrived at an unusual conclusion: if matter is infinite, then at some point it repeats itself. In physics, quantum mechanics shows us that everything we have ever done and will do already exists in the multiverse (a vast series of parallel universes). Physicists believe that at the level of atoms time is irrelevant. So in some sense, we are infinite,” Rees said in his director’s notes.
The chemistry between two actors is vital within any love story, and Stackonis’ boy charm blends perfectly with Storm’s zealous allure. Constellations demonstrates both Storm’s and Stackonis’ exceptional abilities. Fear, jealously, falling in love, frustration, passion—every important emotion within storytelling is portrayed with precise talent.
Stackonis’ acting is spot on, from giving a goofy beekeeper’s proposal to turning into an emotional wreck after being cheated on. His abilities are some of the best I’ve seen coming out of CMU’s theatrical performing arts program.
However, it is Storm who crafts a show-stopping performance. Near the end of the play, brain cancer has taken control of Marianne’s ability to speak. Her last monologue speaks of atoms, time and space, leaving everyone in the theater wiping tears from their faces.
Two incredibly talented actors have changed my mind on the subject of theatrical repetition. I no longer dread the idea of repetitive scripts because a marvelous performance such as Constellations will outshine the boredom of recurrence.