Marianne and Roland first meet at a barbecue. No, wait. It was a wedding. She's interested in him, but he has a girlfriend. Or was it that he was just out of a relationship, not ready to date? The answer, actually, is all of the above. Constellations, Nick Payne's 2011 play, which is currently receiving its American premiere at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, espouses the wormhole theory that the world is made up of millions of parallel universes existing side by side. On each wavelength, we might live an identical experience, altered only by a minor variation. It affects how we live our lives, and, more to the point here, how we fall in love.
It's almost impossible to speak more specifically about the plot of this brief, beguiling play without ruining the eventual experience you'll have when you see it. And you should see it. Payne has managed to squeeze more meaningful interaction and thought-provoking questions into sixty unbroken minutes than any other play I've seen thus far this season. And despite what you might expect from the highly-stylized text and dramatic devices, Constellations is, at its core, a portrait of romance and connection. It's funny, moving, occasionally frustrating, and deeply human; in short, everything you could want from a play.
Constellations marks not only the Broadway debut of playwright Payne, but of the production's marquee names: Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson. Gyllenhaal previously starred in Payne's If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet Off-Broadway; Wilson, a two-time Olivier Award winner in London, is best known for her current starring role on Showtime's The Affair. Both are extraordinarily good here. Never leaving the stage, they manage to map the complicated trajectory of an entire relationship in several dozen mini-scenes, some non-verbal, some lasting mere seconds. Rarely have I seen such an intense connection between two performers, and I imagine their bond will only grow stronger as this production moves towards its official opening on January 13. It's almost certainly guaranteed to be 2015's first must-have ticket.
[Last row mezzanine, deeply discounted ticket]