Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Constellations
Cockroach Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Also see Mary's review of Tribes


Erik Amblad and Maythinee Washington
Photo by Ryan Reason @ Square Shooting
We've all read it: "Two roads diverged ..." How many different futures could each of us have? Every choice we make, every nuance of conversation, with strangers, friends, or intimate partners, is a fork in the road with the potential to change the course of our lives. We can't take a mulligan and explore what would have happened had we chosen differently. Except that the characters in Constellations get to do just that—over and over again. The result, in the hands of the Cockroach Theatre, is an extraordinary roller coaster ride and a must-see theatre event.

Marianne (a physicist) and Roland (a beekeeper) meet awkwardly at a friend's barbecue. Marianne tries a silly conversation-starter. Roland brushes her off. Quick blackout, then lights up: Marianne tries the same opening. Busted again, but Roland's excuse changes. Reset and retry: Nada, but different yet again. Another reset: A possible spark?

This pattern repeats throughout the play, as we follow these characters over the next few years. Some scenes are hilarious; others are heartbreaking.

While Nick Payne's two-hander was a hit at London's Royal Court, it was only a modest success on larger stages. But rejoice: Where Broadway failed, Las Vegas has succeeded. This production is magical.

For this game of "what if?" to succeed, pacing and timing are crucial. Because the short scenes contain repeated elements and are separated by blackouts, the repetition could become tedious (as it did to some extent on Broadway). Not so here. The direction by Levi Fackrell is letter perfect. Friday night's audience was transfixed.

In addition to the fine direction, this production boasts two exceptional performers. Maythinee Washington and Erik Amblad are giving a master class in acting. The short blackouts between scenes give them only an instant to reset, both physically and emotionally. In the blink of an eye, anger replaces joy; tears become banter. These highly expressive actors hold nothing back, making their rapid-fire transitions all the more remarkable. There are no exaggerations or false notes.

For obvious reasons, Constellations requires flawless coordination between the performers and the technical team. Lighting designer Elizabeth Kline and stage manager Mac Geldmacher support the actors with unfailing precision.

For this production, seating space in the Art Square Theatre has been reduced, making this tiny theatre even tinier. This was a smart choice: Intimacy is essential to unlocking the brilliance of this play. Rose Scarborough's costumes evince the ordinariness of Marianne and Roland. Scott Fadale's simple set design works perfectly in this setting, and Amanda Peterson's opening soundscape gives us the hubbub of parallel universes in which every possible future exists.

Move quickly to get your tickets; this production deserves to sell out. Even for veterans of the New York and London theatre scenes, it doesn't get better than this.

Constellations continues through January 31, 2016, Thursday through Saturday @ 8 pm, Sundays @ 2 pm, at the Art Square Theatre, 1025 S. First Street # 110, Las Vegas, NV 89101. For tickets ($20 adults, $10 students, $16 seniors and military), go to cockroachtheatre.com. For further information, visit the website or call 702-818-3422.

Cast:
Marianne Maythinee Washington
Roland Erik Amblad


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