Another winning staging of a celebrated international play at Theatre On The Bay

Another winning staging of a celebrated international play at Theatre On The Bay

SHOW: Constellations
Director: Alan Swerdlow
Cast: Janna Ramos-Violante and Ashley Dowd
Venue: Theatre On The Bay until October 11
REVIEW: Peter Tromp

Theatre On The Bay this week concludes its season of local productions of recently celebrated and award winning international plays, and the whole affair can only be described as a rousing qualitative success.
Bobby Heaney kicked things off with flamboyant flair towards the tail end of August with ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’. Then Fred Abrahamse picked up the gauntlet with ‘The Vertical Hour’, a much more measured, but no less rousing affair.
And now it’s the turn of Theatre On The Bay stalwart Alan Swerdlow, who closes the proverbial curtain on this remarkable series of plays with Nick Payne’s ‘Constellations’. The two aforementioned productions were lengthy, hearty affairs that stretched the two hour mark. ‘Constellations’ however is barely 70 minutes long and a two-hander, but boy, does Swerdlow make every second of that time count.

If ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ and ‘The Vertical Hour’ were sumptuous five course meals, then ‘Constellations’ is like a theatrical tasting menu. The dramatic flavours are so concentrated that you’ll be savouring them long after the performers have taken their well deserved bows.
‘Constellations’ tells the story of a relationship between a man and a woman, Roland (Ashley Dowd) and Marianne (Janna Ramos-Violante) – the one a bee keeper and the other a specialist in quantum multiverse theory. That should actually be the “stories” of a relationship – because taking its cue from Marianne’s field of study, the play explores any and nearly all variations of their connection and resultant relationship.

It is a fascinating concoction and mesmerizing to watch, although its complex structure does require more from the audience than more typical narratives. That being said, the emotional through-line of the characters’ charming and singular connection – and the difficulties they face as they try and reconcile their wildly different worldviews – is not too difficult to keep track of, and definitely worth the investment.

I don’t want to get too carried away, but I think this might be Swerdlow’s finest achievement at Theatre On The Bay.
He gets you on board with the characters and their cosmic journey right from the off and gets fine performance from the likeable leads. Ramos-Violante in particular is just spectacularly good in a demanding role and is almost unrecognisable from any of the characters I have seen her as before. Although it’s structure takes some getting used to even for seasoned theatregoers, the whole affair has a playful vibe, despite plumbing some serious depths along the way, and will have you enraptured from start to finish.
Don’t miss the final couple of performances.

* Book at Computicket.