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REVIEW: "Constellations"

Angie LaPaglia
Emily Etherton and Todd Clark in "Constellations."
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The theater season has gotten off to a shaky start, but just when theatergoers were getting nervous, something comes along that’s surprising in the what, where and from whom. And the current production of Constellations by British playwright Nick Payne proves, once again, you don’t need a big budget, glitz and glamour to put on forceful theater.

Next Stage and Knockdowndragout Productions are presenting this 2012 play at the Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery. Next Stage is known for producing new, if lightweight, shows at a nightclub called The Boom. While not as active in recent seasons, Knockdowndragout has been our leading producer of edgy, if not new, plays. IAO has been a center for the performing and visual arts since way back in the last century.

In Constellations, Payne runs the gamut of human emotions, actions and reactions. The script flips back and forth between troubled and ecstatic, grows organically, turns back on itself and is somewhat palindromic. The scenes are often short. A scene may be repeated with a few lines or words changed or with the characters in this two-hander exchanging lines. Sometimes when the actors say nothing, they convey a lot.

It’s as interesting a script as has been staged around here in a while. Granted, a little of this type of drama goes a long way, so the 70-minute running time is about right.

But this worthy script needs artists who have the abilities and experience to give it a quality production. The sure-handed direction by Rodney Brazil and outstanding performances by Emily Etherton and Todd Clark make the show a success. This production serves as a good example of how to stage a play in a non-traditional space.

A tour-de-force for the actors, the play allows Etherton and Clark to show their virtuosity, and they make the most of it. The characters sweep from comic to tragic,  confessional to argumentative, flippant to earnest, and Etherton and Clark nail the roles with barely a chance to take a breath.

The intimate setting of the IAO Gallery pulls the audience into the lives of the characters, who are middle-class British professionals. Brazil’s spare staging uses only two stools and an engagement ring as props, but the production never feels scaled-down or skimpy. The elegantly simple lighting design by Chase Bell behind white balloons that hang and float above the performance space raises the quality of the production.

Brazil has the actors do the characters with British accents, which Etherton and Clark maintain well, but it has a distancing effect on the audience, which the director may intend. The only Briticisms I caught were “flat” (as in apartment) and “bloke.” It would be interesting to see the play done in American English.

If this play has something new to say about the human condition or the vicissitudes of life, I didn’t hear it. But Payne’s adept use of language and the work’s construction and an excellent production make this play compelling theater that will stick with you for a while.

Constellations, a play by Nick Payne
Thursday, November 9th, 2017 8:00pm to Saturday, November 11th, 2017 8:00pm
Next Stage and Knockdowndragout Productions
706 W. Sheridan Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Prices from: $25.00

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About the Author

Larry Laneer

Larry Laneer has reviewed theater for...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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