Chap Hollin & Brennen Amonett in Constellations.
By Nick Payne
Directed by Katherine Krutsick
A review by Tory Parker
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Tory Parker. All rights reserved.
A little confession—sometimes as I write these, I read reviews of other productions of the same show. It feels like talking to my friends after seeing a play. “Well, what did you think about the end?” “That Act 2 opener is something else, right?” We didn’t see the same play, but it’s nice to see the historiography of the production. For the 2012 production of Constellations, John Lahr wrote for The New Yorker, “I can’t say I grasped for certain what the play means. But I do know the real thing when I see it.”
In all its twistings and round-abouts and rehashings, Constellations eludes the confirmation of its own meaning. And it’s a lot like all of us in that way. How can we be preoccupied with the “why” when everything else is bearing down relentlessly? When we are still reeling from the barrage of existing? Pre-show artist Taylor Thomas remarked during her set that she was just now realizing the deeply personal nature of the songs she was about to sing for a room full of family and friends. “It’s like I put my diary up here and said, hey, you all want to read something new?” And what a perfect introduction to a play that feels like peaking into the nature of the connection between two people at the molecular level.
Murphy (Chap Hollin) and Roland (Brennen Amonett) meet at a barbecue, they date, they fall in love, they cheat, they break up, they meet again, they get married, Murphy gets sick, they end. In that order. Not in that order. Murphy, a theoretical physicist, explains that “In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.” We watch their life together in vignettes of different universes—witnessing the results of different choices.
My first thought is that it had to be an absolute BULL to memorize, and the definition of a challenge to direct. It speaks to the talent of everyone, on or off stage, that the production was simple and clear, ringing true like a bell throughout. Krutsick’s directing is soft and specific, helping to guide us through a play that deconstructs and reconstructs itself, gently untangling this lovely web for the audience. There is a particularly distinct and lovely non-verbal moment in the play, and it is crafted with such tenderness that I’d swear you could feel the air in the room get warmer.
Krutsick is blessed with two remarkable talents in Hollin and Amonett. In a play where every movement, every tonal shift, every half glance or twitch can (and often should) throw the audience into a different universe, the two are intricate and dextrous. Their performances are so beautifully intertwined, watching them was like watching a dance. They both managed to embody their characters and simultaneously all the characters within those characters with grace and vulnerability.
The soft flickering of dozens of electric candles onstage turns the cavernous back room of the Whirling Tiger into a sparkling night sky, a bedroom, a last night on earth together. “Time is irrelevant at the level of a-atoms and molecules,” Murphy tells Roland, facing the end of their life. “It’s symmetrical. We have all the time we’ve always had.” It was hard to hear in a room full of grieving people—many of whom at that very moment were thinking of time stolen, time ripped from someone else’s hands, unceremoniously.
Maybe some people take comfort in the idea of the multiverse. They carry a truth that somewhere out there is a me who didn’t cheat, or a them who didn’t leave, or a love that never got sick. And I’m sure there are many more who find it overwhelming or irrelevant, because they are stuck living in this universe, where he is gone, where she said that to hurt me, where we never even tried. And I can’t grasp for certain the meaning of infinite parallel universes, the results of every choice you ever, or never, made, but I take comfort in the fact that each of us holds the key to infinite possibilities, and somewhere within that limitless chaos, two people might just meet at a barbecue and fall in love.
Featuring Chap Hollin and Brennen Amonett, pre-show by Taylor Thomas
January 27 and 28 at 2 pm and 29 at 7 pm
The Whirling Tiger
1335 Story Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
Tory Parker, originally from West Virginia, is now a proud Kentuckian as well. In Louisville, she’s worked and/or performed with Claddagh Theatre Company, the Chamber Theatre, Bellarmine University, Wayward Actors Company, Derby City Playwrights, Company Outcast and director Emily Grimany. She is a co-founding artist of three witches shakespeare. As a playwright, her original works appeared in the National Women’s Theatre Festival in their 2020 and 2021 Fringe Festivals.