February 27, 2016
The Red Turnips new show is being staged in a new theater venue, the Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater, which is located on the second floor of Circuit Lane in Circuit Makati. The venue is elongated with the audience seated on two parallel rows along the horizontal axis of the room with the stage in the middle. There was one main hexagonal raised stage in the middle of the room, with several smaller "stages" scattered on either side. There were nylon cords creating a web around the area occupied by the stages. The whole area is bathed in blue light.
I always look forward to new productions by Red Turnip because the plays they choose to stage are very challenging -- both for the actors to perform and for the audience to take in and digest. This new show "Constellations" definitely fits that mold. This play had only two actors and the words the exchange in their conversations to hold your attention for 80 full minutes straight, hardly anything else. And boy, how they nailed this. My attention was not only held, it was riveted.
The synopsis is very simple, deceptively so. Marianne is an astrophysicist. Roland is a beekeeper. They meet at a party. They fall in love and live together. They deal with various problems life throws at them, from affairs to mortality. This was told in little episodes, not in chronological order. It will be up to you to figure out what their real personalities are. It will be up to you piece the whole story together.
From the very first scene, you will instantly see how this play was going to be different from anything. The same lines were repeated over and over. However, there would be different responses to the same question. There would be different emotions and voice inflections to accompany the same words. These differences in delivery or words used, small or insignificant as they would seem, lead to different outcomes. In this play, we actually get to see the various "what-if" scenarios and what happens afterwards.
The actors for this play practically had to be schizophrenic, quickly shifting from one emotion to another at the ring of a bell. Cris Villonco set the pace for the play with her very fluid shifts from flighty millennial to smart scientist to drama queen. There was no doubt that she could pull this role off, and she certainly did. I have only seen JC Santos in Filipino productions before, so his performance here in English was a remarkable revelation. He was certainly able to keep up with Villonco's frenetic pace and make his own memorable moments.
Relativity and romance may seem to be an unlikely pairing for a play, but young British playwright Nick Payne shows us that it can be done with astonishing effect. This play debuted in London in 2012 (with Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall) and brought to Broadway in 2015 (with Ruth Wilson and Jake Gyllenhaal in his Broadway debut), both productions receiving critical acclaim for the actors and the writer.
For this local version, director Rem Zamora fully harnessed the best of his two actors and presented the material in the most hypnotic fashion. The lights (John Batalla), set (Ed Lacson, Jr.) and sound (Teresa Barrozo) were unobtrusive as they should be for a play like this. Everything had to be toned down in order to fully showcase the actors and their words they say and how they say them. All the technical aspects worked together successfully for this full enhancing effect to create the "multiverse" where this play existed.
Red Turnip Theater's CONSTELLATIONS opened last February 12, 2016, and will run on weekends until March 6 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater in Circuit Makati located at Level 2, Circuit Lane, A.P. Reyes Ave., Makati City. Tickets are available through TicketWorld (all outlets, call 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph) or Red Turnip Theater at firstname.lastname@example.org.