CONSTELLATIONS (Wilma): Love in the multiverse

Constellations Wilma Theater review
Sarah Gliko and JeredMcLenigan in Nick Payne’s CONSTELLATIONS, directed by Tea Alagić at the Wilma Theater. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

In CONSTELLATIONS, Marianne and Roland meet at a party and hit it off right away. At least, that’s one version of events. In another version, Roland is turned off by Marianne’s quirky manner. In another, he likes her, but he’s already married.

But following the version of reality in which they do get along, there are even more versions to track. They sleep together on their first date, they don’t, they move in together, they cheat, they break up, they stay together. One develops a debilitating medical ailment and lives, or possibly doesn’t, possibly by choice. “We have all the time we ever had,” Marianne, a theoretical physicist, says to Roland, a beekeeper, alluding to the concept of the multiverse — infinite realities happening simultaneously. It forces the questions, What could have been, and what might be? What if you could see every possibility laid out side by side? Which would you choose?

For anyone who has been in a relationship and occasionally let bitterness interrupt otherwise good times, the characters’ scenes of petty fighting hit home — as do the tender scenes of awkwardness and glee from falling in love. Matt Saunders’s sparse set design also lends itself to a heightened scrutiny: The audience can focus on nothing but the characters’ ups and downs, and thus, judge with the 20/20 hindsight the two don’t yet have.

There’s an extra layer of reality to this onstage love story: Marianne and Roland are played by real-life couple Sarah Gliko and Jered McLenigan, both members of the Wilma company HotHouse. I have to be amazed at how much reflection on their own relationship they must have done to portray this pair so nakedly.

CONSTELLATIONS left me feeling self-reflective, too. It’s easy to look back at relationships gone bad and ask yourself what could have gone differently, but perhaps harder to revel in moments of calm, to appreciate that things are simply good.

[Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street] January 11-February 5, 2017;

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