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Play explores the cascading what-ifs in a relationship

Choices are made every day.

What happens to all of the choices someone could have made and doesn’t? And how would those decisions – big or small – change the course of a life?

There’s a scientific theory that different life paths, stemming from varying choices, exist in parallel universes. In “Constellations,” the latest production at the Adobe Rose Theater, playwright Nick Payne explores the consequences of what-if moments for characters Roland and Marianne through the lens of a “multiverse.”

“How many times in your life have you thought back to some situation with someone and said to yourself, ‘God, if I let that anger get to me in that moment and I had said that thing in that way, how different that particular situation would turn out?’ ” says local actress Alexandra Renzo, who is playing Marianne opposite Scott Harrison as Roland. “We all have those. (The play) is basically a series of those.”

Through nonlinear scenes that start and stop in the middle of different universes, “Constellations” follows the permutations of Roland and Marianne’s relationship, or relationships, starting with their meeting and then going on to its more developed stages over time, says director Lynn Goodwin.

Dale Dunn, the dramaturg or literary adviser for the play, says part of how the couple’s different scenarios turn out relies on intention: not just what the two say to each other, but how they choose to say it.

“Will they continue the conversation, will they see each other again, will they get involved, or not?” Goodwin says. “It just poses the ‘what’s going to happen next?’ – that need for connection, the constant searching for connection in life.”

Renzo describes scenes that require the two to drop directly into a scenario with no buildup or background about what is happening as incredible challenges for an actor. The couple’s experiences can range from positive encounters to fights that leave the audience guessing what will happen with their relationship – the script never directly says whether the two stay together or break up as a result of these emotional moments.

“A scene could be 30 seconds long, (and then we) stop it,” she says. “You could have gotten to an emotional point or heightened sense of being, stop, and then start again and you’re in another version. And this time it’s great, and then it stops. Then this time you’ve backtracked and you’re somewhere else.”

In one scene, Renzo says, the two communicate through sign language. It represents that through different life choices, “you could be a completely different person.”

The play’s universal message about choices has left the actors reflecting on their own lives, something Goodwin says she expects the audience will do as well.

Harrison has caught himself thinking about everything from the route he chooses to drive on a given day to the fact that he almost chose to pursue an Air Force career after graduating college.

“Fortunately, it didn’t work out, but I think about that,” he says. “I think if I would have done that, my whole physicality, the whole way I carry myself, in addition to all of the other choices about life, I’m sure it would change in a huge way.”

Though the play uses Roland and Marianne as a platform for these idea of a multiverse, Renzo says it is about so much more than the two characters.

“It’s about you,” she says. “You can call it a relationship play if you want, but it’s all about humanity. You see that because these multiple universes allow you to see yourself at many stages and many possibilities … Strangely enough, it feels like a birth and death cycle.”

“Constellations” will run until April 1. The March 25 show will be followed by a discussion on the science of multiverses with Santa Fe Institute physicist Van Savage.

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