Constellations BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Joan Marcus
  • Constellations
  • NY TIMES

  • TIME OUT

  • VARIETY

  • HR

  • NBC

Opening Night:
January 13, 2015
Closing:
Open Ended

Theater: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre / 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

One relationship. Infinite possibilities. In the beginning Marianne and Roland (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet at a party. They go for a drink, or perhaps they don’t. They fall madly in love and start dating, but eventually they break up. After a chance encounter in a supermarket they get back together, or maybe they run into each other and Marianne reveals that she’s now engaged to someone else and that’s that. Or perhaps Roland is engaged. Maybe they get married, or maybe their time together will be tragically short. Nick Payne’s Constellations is a play about free will and friendship; it’s also about quantum multiverse theory, love, and honey.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Constellations

    Nerds in Love, Rewriting Destinies

    Ben Brantley

    January 13, 2015: Who knew that higher physics could be so sexy, so accessible — and so emotionally devastating? Constellations, Nick Payne’s gorgeous two-character drama, starring a perfectly matched Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, may be the most sophisticated date play Broadway has seen. This 70-minute fugue-like production, which opened on Tuesday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, takes that most elemental of dramatic setups — boy meets girl — and then spins it into a seeming infinitude of might-have-been alternatives. This is achieved through the application of the principles of string theory, relativity and quantum mechanics, although don’t ask me to explain precisely how. In college, I barely squeaked through Physics for Poets. But I had no difficulty following the convolutions of the relationship between Roland (Mr. Gyllenhaal), a beekeeper, and Marianne (Ms. Wilson), a Cambridge University academic specializing in “theoretical early universe cosmology.” Did I just hear you gulp? Or perhaps sigh at the prospect of another sentimental portrait of a British brainiac, what with those Oscar-bait movies starring Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch as geniuses under siege? You are probably more apt to discover your own self in the characters of Constellations, which was first staged in London in 2012 and arrives here in a Manhattan Theater Club production. I would even venture that it’s impossible not to identify with Roland and Marianne if you’ve ever been in love. No, make that if you’ve ever relived your life in your mind, considering the factors that made things happen as they did.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF Constellations

    A prismatic look beyond the time we live in

    Adam Feldman

    January 13, 2015: Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson are the stars of Constellations, and as that implies, they must make themselves multiple. Inspired by quantum mechanics, Nick Payne’s captivating play, directed crisply by Michael Longhurst, explores the idea of parallel universes in a mosaic of scenes that often restart and branch off in new directions, skipping forward and backward in time. “Every decision you’ve ever and never made” creates a different reality, and the play shows us fragments of some of them. It puts narrative in a house of infinite shattered mirrors. Beekeeper Roland (Gyllenhaal) and cosmologist Marianne (Wilson) are on-again, off-again lovers: in some worlds on, in some worlds off. Their relationship and its challenges—infidelity, illness, death—vary in ways that sometimes reflect nuances of their behavior and sometimes stem from forces beyond their control (which may not be such different things). Informed by authors like Jorge Luis Borges and Caryl Churchill, Constellations is smart but not dry; its focus is on the personal and emotional, and Gyllenhaal and Wilson reboot themselves convincingly at every stutter and turn. They’re wonderfully multiversatile.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Constellations

    "Constellations" Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Wilson

    Marilyn Stasio

    January 13, 2015: Short and sweet and strangely haunting. That’s the quick take on Constellations, a romantic two-hander starring dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal and the radiant British thesp Ruth Wilson (fresh off her Golden Globes win for Showtime’s The Affair) as a young couple who break through the boundaries of the time/space continuum to explore the infinite possibilities of their love. Although barely an hour long, this baby bombshell by hot Brit scribe Nick Payne (a play that originated at the Royal Court and went on to the West End) overflows with emotional highs and lows. Who hasn’t wondered about the roads not taken and where they might have led us? Who hasn’t mourned the adventures we never had, the soulmates we never met, the happiness we never knew because we never dared to take that detour off the beaten track? The poet Robert Frost said it in a single memorable line: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both.” Gwyneth Paltrow had the rare opportunity to live two simultaneous (and equally dull) lives in the 1998 movie Sliding Doors. In its own clumsy way, the musical If/Then plays on the same theme by manipulating the chance decisions that allow a woman, played by Idina Menzel, to pursue two alternate lives. Constellations accomplishes the same metaphysical feat with far more grace and intelligence by sending destined lovers Roland (Gyllenhaal) and Marianne (Wilson) spinning through space, altering their relationship at every turn through the individual choices they make.

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Constellations

    A dynamic brainteaser with an emotional payoff

    David Rooney

    January 13, 2015: A romantic two-hander spun out of string theory, in which the significant moments of a couple's life together are played out in different directions across infinite parallel paths? That sounds on paper like a cerebral exercise, designed to test audiences' concentration while actors flex their muscles. But British playwright Nick Payne's beguiling Constellations is not only a full-bodied narrative, it's a richly affecting experience. That's thanks to the sensitivity of the writing, but also to the warmth, humor and vitality invested in it by Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, giving two astonishing performances in a production from Michael Longhurst that's as rigorous as it is tender. First seen to great acclaim in 2012 at London's Royal Court Theatre with Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall, the production comes to New York via Manhattan Theatre Club and has been ideally recast. Gyllenhaal is riding high on critical and awards-season attention for his maniacally riveting turn in Nightcrawler, while the secret is out on seasoned English stage actress Wilson after her terrific TV work on Luther and The Affair. Neither of them could have asked for a more distinctive entrée to Broadway. The pithiness and intellectual curiosity of the writing and the experimental structure might be somewhat reminiscent of eminent Brit playwrights like Caryl Churchill, Michael Frayn and Tom Stoppard, but there's an emotional directness, even a humanity, if you will, that sets Constellations apart.

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  • NBC NEW YORK REVIEW OF Constellations

    Two Stars Shine in "Constellations"

    Roberth Kahn

    January 13, 2015: Stories that unfold in multiple universes have undeniable appeal. Who wouldn’t want to think that just because things aren’t so swell here, they’re not better -- or at least different -- on some parallel plane? Cases in point: Broadway’s If/Then, David Ives’ comic Sure Thing, the films Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day, and so on. The “multiverse play” gets an appealing entry with Constellations, a two-character drama by young British playwright Nick Payne now having its American premiere, with Jake Gyllenhaal and newly minted Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson (Showtime’s The Affair) making their Broadway debuts. Constellations has just opened at the MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Amid examples of the genre, Constellations raises the stakes by introducing a female lead with an academic background in nothing less than quantum mechanics. Wilson’s Marianne studies “theoretical early universe cosmology” at Cambridge University, and believes that at any given moment, several outcomes of any event can co-exist simultaneously.  “In the Quantum Multiverse,” she explains to Gyllenhaal’s wholly rapt Roland, a charming beekeeper, “every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.” (With kudos to the playwright, there’s not a suggestion of classism apparent between the two.)

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  • AM NEW YORK REVIEW OF Constellations

    Theater review: "Constellations"

    Matt Windman

    January 13, 2015: Jake Gyllenhaal has really got a thing for Nick Payne, a young English playwright whose work is only seen in New York when Gyllenhaal is starring in it. Two years ago, the actor appeared Off-Broadway in Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, an incomprehensible family drama that tried to tackle climate change by literally flooding the set. Now Gyllenhaal is making his Broadway debut in Payne’s two-character relationship drama Constellations. He is joined by Ruth Wilson, an English actress who just won a Golden Globe for the Showtime series The Affair. Gyllenhaal and Wilson emerge on a stage that is empty except for a carefully aligned mass of party balloons at the very top. He is a mild-mannered beekeeper, and she is a sharp physicist full of personality. The 70-minute play is structured like the films Memento and Sliding Doors and the Broadway musical If/Then, with variations on the same scenes being explored based on different choices that the characters might make, as per the theme of infinite possibilities.

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