For most stages, precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have stifled performing arts and theater. In other ways, those restrictions have given some works a path to a bigger stage.
Nick Payne’s “Constellations” was given a chance to shine by Rochester Civic Theatre with a main-stage run there through Oct. 17. Rebecca Sands and Sean Lundberg, who performed in a short run of the show in 2018, are stellar performers.
The show focuses on the couple — Marianne, a physicist, and Roland, a beekeeper — through multiple universes and outcomes of the choices they make, some big, some small. It cannot have been an easy show to learn, having to do the same scene multiple times, sometimes with minor changes, sometimes verbatim, but with different undertones.
Spanning multiple universes is a far-reaching concept, and parts of the show carry some weighty emotions, which the two do a fantastic job of expressing.
The real impacts come in the subtle differences between nearly identical scenes.
In some scenes, Lundberg, Sands or both will change their position slightly on stage or their inflection to give the same lines new meaning in a similar scene. The effectiveness is more than just avoiding repetition. The changes are subtle, but the emotions the two convey behind the differences are deep and strongly conveyed.
In addition to an interesting script and strong performances, the audience gets a bonus treat in seeing two characters come together intimately on stage without tricks, masks or distancing. Sands and Lundberg live together and quarantined in the same home. Seeing them effortlessly close together is an essential component of the success of their performance.
While the script touches on big concepts such as a grand unification theory between quantum mechanics and astrophysics, they don’t weigh down the script. Two people falling in love through multiple realities is easy to understand.
In one moment, Marianne tries to convey that time isn’t linear even if it's finite. It’s a concept that makes you appreciate the time and experiences you have had and contemplate the ones you haven’t. "Constellations" is definitely worth a sliver of your finite time.