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Theater Review: TheatreWorks Offering Thoughtful, Intellectual ‘Constellations’ To Open Season



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NEW MILFORD — Constellations, written by Nick Payne and directed for TheatreWorks New Milford’s season opening by Viv Berger, is a thought-provoking, intellectual piece that lingers well past its curtain.

At a chance meeting during a barbecue, Marianne (played by Heather Haneman) and Roland (Matthew Benjamin Horowitz) enter into an early flirtation. Marianne invites a conversation with Roland on the inability of humans to lick their own elbows.

This is done in several exchanges with varying inflections and attitudes. In this manner, the themes of the play are introduced.

Addressing the nonlinear nature of relationships and their dependence on communication, Mr Payne and Ms Berger seem to want to convey the frailty of verbal communication in its various contexts and tones. The impact of the manner in which words are conveyed is as important as the verbiage itself.

In a scene where the actors communicate with sign language, the actual text of their conversation was projected on a screen upstage. Blocked by the actors who were standing in front of the screen, the translation was unavailable to the audience and yet strangely unnecessary.

The vehemence and emotion was made apparent by the vigor with which their silent exchange took place. Their meaning crystallized in the absence of sound.

Both actors appeared awkward in the outset; the unfamiliarity of their characters was palpable. They are an unlikely pair, a cosmologist and a beekeeper.

Yet as the performance progressed, the characters portrayed by Ms Haneman and Mr Horowitz displayed an evolving and deepening connection.

With all of the possible directions a relationship can take to deal with the myriad circumstances it can encounter, this one relationship finds itself in a place with a single option.

In the gifted hands of these performers, this piece resonates.

The set, designed by Leif Smith, includes a series of platforms on which the actors stand as they repeat lines in various contexts. The focal point is a screen of changing images that reflect the characters’ time and place, drawings meant to convey the status of their connection and the eponymous constellations, which seem to imply that for relationships to work, the stars must align. In shifting time and space, true connection presents enormous challenges.

This is solid work that invites the audience to think and to analyze what they are seeing and hearing. It is an interesting and enlightening journey.

Performances continue through March 7, with curtain Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon, March 1. For ticket details and reservations, and directions to the theater, visit theatreworks.us or call 860-350-6863.

Due to adult situations and language, the theater does not recommend this production for children.

Marianne (Heather Haneman) and Roland (Matthew Benjamin Horowitz) share a moment in Constellations, the current production at TheatreWorks New Milford. —Richard Pettibone photo
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