“Constellations” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 14, 2023


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Hormel Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Every day we say things to many people.  Usually when you say something to someone, that is your only chance to express that thought.  We all know that there are a variety of ways to say things.  Sometimes we are strident and dictatorial, sometimes we are thoughtful and sensitive, sometimes we are neutral when a bit of emotion might help, and sometimes we luck out and say whatever we must to another person immaculately.

All these ways of communicating are brilliantly explored by British playwright Nick Payne in his award-winning 2012 play “Constellations” which is being presented in a fine Phoenix Theatre Company production.  It features two persuasive performances by local actors who portray Cambridge University physicist Marianne and her beekeeper partner Roland. The pair’s love story and their communication issues are explored within the context of modern physics.  The short play explores its theme with just enough repletion to avoid boredom.

A starkly circular playing area with little scenic definition is enhanced by solicitous lighting and blackouts that help direct the audience’s attention to the various approaches to dialogue the pair employ to find the best possible use in each unique situational discussion.  Director Karla Koskinen’s patterns of movement and meticulous use of the platform help further enhance the play’s message of the importance of careful interaction.

Emily Mohney’s Marianne labors over how she discusses her thoughts with her real-life husband Louis Farber’s Roland.  The pair play off of each other with superb care in such a way that you can feel the pain that often comes between them as they struggle to communicate successfully.  If there is a quibble with their performances, it is that their British accents aren’t completely convincing and lack critical consistency as they both vary considerably throughout the performance.  But this is very picky criticism of two remarkable enactments.

TPTC’s thoughtful and well produced “Constellations” is a fascinating look at our daily communications and how important it is that we say things with meticulous considerations to what the people we are communicating understand and the importance of imparting feelings with our discussions of anything. “Constellations” runs through January 29. To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A