“Constellations” — a production exploring the dimensions and possibilities of a relationship — will debut this weekend at the Calhoun Cabaret.
Featuring a cast of two actors, the piece, structured in short scenes that begin and end abruptly, dips into the several possible routes its characters’ relationship could have taken. The play brings together two characters from the apparently disparate worlds of beekeeping and quantum cosmology, and is accompanied by an original score composed by Emil Ernstrom ’19. Zeb Mehring ’19, one of the play’s actors, said he thinks “Constellations,” in its intimate meditation on destiny’s role in romance, represents a new direction for drama at Yale.
“I think ‘Constellations’ is part of a new trend in Yale Drama towards more intimate, humble stories … rather than the grandiose tale of a hero conquering a threat, or even his or her own faults,” Mehring said. “It opens the mind of the audience to the possibilities that could occur, and that’s why it’s so special. It’s interactive and engaging in a completely new way. Yale is a place that is overflowing with talent, creativity and young minds. This show is important to such a community not because it offers ideas to contemplate, but rather, suggests how to generate ideas worth contemplating.”
Irina Gavrilova ’17, the play’s director, said the show’s unusually small cast required her to be more attuned to the particulars of the relationship between the two actors. She added that it pushed her to pay greater attention to the actors’ dynamic, and to the broader emotional landscape of the play.
Mehr Nadeem ’19, “Constellations’” assistant stage manager, explained that despite the size of the cast, the play’s many trajectories — which explore the various consequences of any given choice in a relationship — and the resulting shifts in characters’ personalities, make the cast seem larger than two actors. Nadeem said she thinks that in this production, the intimacy of a two-character show is complemented by a wider variety of personalities, which bring color and dynamism to the piece.
Gavrilova noted that it was the actors’ imaginations that allowed these “50 distinctly different yet clearly connected universes to exist.”
Set designer Hannah Kazis-Taylor ’19 said she was inspired by the powerlessness the characters suffered due to their unpredictable trajectories and strived to portray this through the physical space itself. Kazis-Taylor painted the ground with both ancient and modern depictions of the universe, drawn from ancient models as well as Einstein’s equations.
“The dialogue itself addresses feeling directionless in terms of work and relationships, and the structure of the play considers feeling lost in infinite time and space,” Kazis-Taylor said.
Mehring said he and his co-star Annie Saenger ’19 have had analytical discussions beyond simply rehearsing the play for an audience.
Mehring highlighted the subjective and highly personal nature of the show’s effect on audience members. The actor said he thinks audience members’ interpretation of the play will be based on their own ideas of why the script showcases certain “universes” rather than others.
Gavrilova said she hoped the audience considers the nature of both randomness and decision-making in their lives, and contemplates the importance of taking a different perspective.
“We here at Yale are so primed to think there is only one right answer to everything, but what if there is an infinite amount [of possibilities] and they are all best?” she asked.
“Constellations” was written by Nick Payne.