A line in “Isn’t it Ironic” says “It’s meeting the man of my dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.” But what would happen if he wasn’t married? What would happen if he just had gotten divorced? What would happen if …?
The tantalizing promise of endless possibilities and the questions of the roads not taken lie at the heart of the two-person play Constellations, which has moved here from a successful run in London. A couple meet “cute” at a party as Marianne tells Roland that people can’t lick their own elbows. (Try it.) That scene is played out multiple times as the characters use different inflections when saying the same lines, contort their bodies differently, and finally make a connection. British actress Ruth Wilson is radiant as Marianne, who works at a university as a physicist and who weaves talk of parallel universes into the story of this relationship. Jake Gyllenhaal as Roland, a beekeeper, is good but his portrayal doesn’t take flight as Wilson’s does.
This show has both a heart and a brain. We feel for the characters as we root for them to get together and have a happy life. But our brains acknowledge that matters outside our control can waylay best laid plans, and that even in multiple universes all things must end. The hope at the beginning of this play is signified with a set that is stark except for a plethora of floating white balloons. At the end some of those balloons, along with our high hopes, come drifting down to earth. AFW
Samuel Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47 Street (Manhattan Theater Club)
Ticket prices: All seats $100, http://constellationsbroadway.com/tickets/
Running time – 70 minutes, no intermission
Through March 15th