If you scratch your head with your right arm, there is another universe out there where you’re scratching your head with your left arm. This is the idea--in its very simplified form--that Constellations is presenting.
Two people, Mary Ann and Roland, meet, fall in love, fall out of love, fall in love again, fight, break up, fall back in love and then repeat the entire cycle once again, one more time, and another--this time with feelings--and at another time, without.
“Time is irrelevant,” says Cris Villonco’s character Mary Ann. Is this why she and JC Santos’s character Roland, seem stuck in a perpetual loop of what-if’s and what-could-have-been’s playing and replaying limitlessly “x” number of times?
As Mary Ann and Roland exchange pleasantries, their emotions suddenly morph in intensity in a split second. It vacillates from joy, familiarity, and then contempt, and back to a point where none of the above feelings were ever felt.
All these go on as they utter the exact same lines in the same exact situation, but in varying emotional contexts. It is déjà vu on steroids.
The words they use matters little as their emotions trump anything and everything they have said or will ever say. Thus they resort to sign language at one point during their endless back and forth dialogue. In the absence of words, their emotions still shine through.
Cris Villonco’s facial expressions, body language and performance pull you in. When she’s sad, you’re sad with her, not for her. She switches from a smile to a tear in an instant--a feat that made the play engaging to watch despite the repeating broken-record-like scenes.
The play throws around physics concepts such as “string theory,” “multiverse,” “quantum theory,” “atoms” and the clockwork motion of the stars in an attempt to ground in science the intangible yet more easily relatable universe of human emotions.
But as human emotions go, feelings can be unrelenting. Unresolved feelings expressed repeatedly can be exhausting, and the play gives off that vibe. Even the character, Mary Ann, couldn’t help but admit, “It’s tiring…it’s the words Roland.”
Thirty minutes in and a few audience members were yawning and seem disinterested. After a few more minutes, interest is piqued once more and attention returns due to a more dramatic turn of events on stage.
Constellations’ non-linear storytelling mimics how emotions are similarly remembered.
Feelings--like constellations--are patterns we see, track and sometimes, even allow in leading us to live in set ways. Our own patterns of sadness, anger, joy are usually used as basis in making our choices. We allow our emotions to rule us instead of the other way around, the same way we allow the stars to, dictate--at times even blame for--our fate.
Though time, as stated by Cris’ character Mary Ann, is “irrelevant,” there is a ticking clock heard throughout the play’s entirety.
Time becomes relevant when change occurs. Only in time can change happen because what was once “before” is now different “after.” Once change happens, it is proof that time exists and is therefore relevant.
The characters in Constellations seem stuck in time. They repeat the same patterns, words, emotions in a cycle that is keeping them from growing and changing. In this context, time is indeed irrelevant.
If this play will help you realize your own need to grow, move on, and not be led by patterns that will keep you stagnant, make sure to watch it.
This is not a play you attend to just watch and chill. It will demand your patience and unbridled attention. It might also remind you of your own patterns and how you should lead them and not allow them to lead you.
Constellations is not easy to enjoy. Actors Cris Villonco and JC Santos’s performances helped make sitting through it easier.
This play by British playwright Nick Payne is directed by Rem Zamora, with a set designed by Ed Lacson Jr.
Constellations is a Red Turnip Theater production. It is being staged until March 6, 2016 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati, A.P. Reyes Ave., Brgy. Carmona, Makati City.