Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Phoenix Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Dead Man's Cell Phone, The Lifespan of a Fact and Misery

Emily Mohney and Louis Farber
Photo by Reg Madison Photography
The idea that there are parallel universes, in which the opposite of a decision we made in one universe is made by an alternate version of ourselves in another, and the lives of our alternate selves are impacted in vastly different ways by those choices isn't new; the movie Sliding Doors and the recent musical If/Then both focused on how different decisions made by their heroines propel their alternate selves into vastly different lives.

In Nick Payne's drama Constellations, which centers on the relationship between beekeeper Roland and string theorist Marianne, quantum physics, which Marianne is adept in, offers a scientific explanation for this. She states, "Every choice, every decision you've ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes."

Payne's play is an intriguing theatrical journey into a vast multiverse that seems to have no limits or boundaries. The Phoenix Theatre Company's production features wonderful performances by Emily Mohney and Louis Farber, clear and precise direction, and creative designs that heighten and elevate the multiverse experience.

With lines of dialogue and interactions between the two delivered repeatedly with different inflections and altered physical demeanor each time, as well as the addition or deletion of certain words, we witness how the relationship between Marianne and Roland is shown to have had an exponential number of possible outcomes. While the show moves forward from their first encounter to their last, there are also occasional interruptions where glimpses into the future foreshadow what's to come. This forms, in a way, a jumbled jigsaw puzzle of personal interactions and moments that show how in one scenario they wouldn't get past their first meeting or in another how an affair would break them apart. In doing so, Payne lays out how these parallel lives play out and unfold across time and space to form an almost infinite number of parallel lives.

While the repeated scenes delivered in different ways could come across as an audition or rehearsal exercise in less skilled hands, under Karla Koskinen's precise direction and through the spotless performances by Emily Mohney and Louis Farber (who are a couple in real life, so their chemistry is palpable), a dazzling display of words and emotions is formed. The couple bring their character's parallel lives to three-dimensional life through the expert use of skilled facial expressions, body language, and inflection, along with several silent pauses and fairly good English accents, and the play throbs with electricity and depth for a fast-paced 75 minutes.

The set design by Sarah Harris resembles a large helix with twinkling lights like stars floating over the circular stage, which helps connect the scientific and somewhat interstellar element in the play to the words we hear and actions we see. The sound design and original music composition by Ashton Corey, and Nathaniel White's lighting design add additional layers of dimension via visual and audial elements with snaps and flickers of light and sound constantly filling the air.

Constellations is a beautiful, life-affirming theatrical journey about life, death, love and grief that lets us see the infinite possibilities of the human drama and how every decision we make or word we say has an outcome in our lives and the lives of the people we are connected with.

Constellations runs through January 29, 2023, at Phoenix Theatre Company, 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 602-254-2151.

Director: Karla Koskinen
Scenic, Costume Hair + Makeup Designer: Sarah Harris
Lighting Designer: Nathaniel White
Sound Designer/Composer: Ashton Corey
Properties Master: Sarah Harris
Director of Production: Karla Frederick
Company Manager/Associate Production Manager: Tyler Welden
Stage Manager: Andrea Small*
Asst. Stage Manager: Maylea Bauers*

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Roland: Louis Farber*
Marianne: Emily Mohney*

*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors & stage managers in the U.S.