CONSTELLATIONS by Nick Payne (Canadian Stage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to November 27. $39-$99. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com..
In an alternate universe, perhaps, Nick Paynes Constellations could be a great play. But despite its strivings toward profundity and two committed performances, the earthbound version at the Bluma Appel Theatre remains more intellectual exercise than fully developed work.
Marianne (Cara Ricketts) and Roland (Graham Cuthbertson) meet cute at a barbecue. Alas, hes married. Oh wait. What if we replay the scene and hes not? What if they hit it off and become a couple? But then, what if he cheats on her? Or instead, what if she cheats on him?
These possible worlds, sliding doors and if/then propositions to evoke other works that have dealt more successfully with the idea of multiverses are seemingly shown us because Marianne is a Cambridge quantum physicist.
But we dont really learn much about her work. Rather, we watch Ricketts and Cuthbertson replay scenes speaking with different inflections, and see how director Peter Hinton and his design team adjust lighting (by Andrea Lundy) and use the revolving set (by Michael Gianfrancesco) to cleverly orient us.
In addition, a third performer, Jane Chan, plays snatches of melody from the sublime (Bach) to the ridiculous (Michael Jackson) to set the mood.
The result is a play that stops, starts, begins again and gradually makes you lose patience. A theme about illness seems there to add emotional heft, but it feels unearned. And while the two actors use many tricks to help establish their characters different relationships, I cant help wondering what itd be like to see them in another play.
Oh yeah, and the ending has zero emotional impact.