From OpenStage in Fort Collins, a play about multiple universes and infinite possibilities

Constellations, written by Nick Payne and directed by Natalie Scarlett, keeps you on your toes from start to finish. It’s the kind of play that will make you want to look up to the stars to ponder the great unknown, the complexity of human nature, the very real possibility of infinite possibilities.

It’s a good thing the whole thing takes place under a dome of stars at The OtterBox Digital Dome Theater located within The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. You don’t have to wait to exit the theater to look up at the stars and ponder all the questions this play aims to explore and highlight.

From the beginning of Constellations, we learn quickly that we will need to pay close attention to understand the full meaning of this play. We are given a quick (but very important to the understanding of the play) lesson in Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics by Marianne (Ariel Greenspoon). Along with that theory, we learn that physicists, such as Marianne, argue that it can only be reconciled by hypothesizing that there might indeed be multiple universes.

Marianne tells Roland (Keegan Bockhorst) and the audience:

Every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginable vast ensemble of parallel universes … Let’s say that ours really is the only universe that exists. There’s only one unique me and one unique you. If that were true, then there could only ever really be one choice. But if every possible future exists, then the decisions we do and don’t make will determine which of these futures we actually end up experiencing.

Indeed, Constellations gives us all the decisions Marianne and Roland do and don’t make from the moment they meet. It is the audience’s job to follow each storyline to the end.

Director Natalie Scarlett took full advantage of the Otter Box Theatre’s powerful lighting capabilities to give ‘Constellations’ a unique backdrop.

Multiple meetings

Roland and Marianne meet approximately seven times at a barbecue of mutual friends. Each time Marianne’s opening line to Roland is the same, “Do you know why it’s impossible to lick the tips of your elbows?” (Valid exploration, right there.) “They hold the secret to immortality, so if you could lick them, there’s a chance you’d be able to live forever.” (Fascinating theory.)

Marianne delivers this pickup line to Roland many times, each time in a slightly different way with different intonation, playfulness, volume or tone. Roland has a different reaction to it every time. It’s all the worries that might go through your head as you decide to flirt with a perfect stranger — maybe he’s married, has a girlfriend, is just out of a serious relationship, maybe he’s single, interested, ready.

At first, you might think Greenspoon is having difficulty remembering her lines with the repetitiveness of it. She’s not. In fact, both actors are brilliant, making the subtle differences in the delivery of the same line that determine the course of this play. They show us the endless possibilities that exist within the answer to the same question asked many different ways.

The play moves forward showing the couple together, both happily and unhappily. A marriage proposal is posed, accepted, not accepted. An act of infidelity breaks the couple up, brings them closer together. Dance classes are attended where the couple reunites — joyously, jealously. Because all these universes exist simultaneously, all these storylines happen, one after another, on stage. All possibilities are explored with the decisions we do or do not make.

Unique venue

The OtterBox Digital Dome Theater is surely a unique location to see this play. There’s a very tiny stage set with only a twin bed and a couple of chairs. Perhaps the real setting is in the dome above the audience. There, we see a constantly changing movement of stars, and honeycombs, two left feet and numerals and letters floating above, all enhancing the experience of this complex play.

To appreciate Constellations, one must be open to the idea that there are indeed parallel universes, or that there indeed might be. One must embrace the idea that it is not just the way one asks a question, but also the circumstances, the weather, the connections, even the type of coffee one had that day, that in fact influence the course of things. Constellations is a kind of Sliding Doors type of play, but this time, there are not simply two directions the story might go, but an infinite number of storylines in an infinite amount of universes.