(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/13.)
If the science at the center of Nick Payne’s smart, slushy and pretty superb Constellations is right, then there’s a parallel universe in which Manhattan Theatre Club never produced the play, the Royal Court never premiered it, Payne never wrote it. Good thing – for Broadway, anyway – that we’re in this particular cosmos.
Payne has said that a pair of nature documentaries, The Elegant Universe, about string theory, and Vanishing of the Bees, about colony collapse disorder, inspired this physics-drenched romance. Theoretical physicist Marianne (Ruth Wilson) and beekeeper Roland (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet at a barbecue and fall in love. Or they barely speak to each other. Or they flirt and nothing comes of it. And so on.
After their first date, Marianne tries to explain her work in quantum mechanics to Roland. “We’re part of a multiverse,” she says, a little drunkenly. “At any given moment, several outcomes can coexist simultaneously.” Brainy stuff, this string theory, but the play is a simple and often graceful demonstration of this premise.