The Dallas Examiner
Award-winning independent filmmaker Calvin Walker brought yet another work of art to the theater stage in Constellations. Written by British playwright Nick Payne, Constellations is about the love story of Marianne, a quantum physics scientist (played by actress Kelly Stewart) and Roland, a beekeeper (played by actor Charles Jackson Jr.).
The stage play was held June 29 through July 1at Arts Mission Oak Cliff.
What was unique about this play was that within each scene, the same topic was repeatedly acted out using different storylines that led to different outcomes. Marianne presents the concept of a multiverse several times throughout the story. The multiverse – or many-worlds interpretation – implies that all possible outcomes of quantum measurements are physically realized in some “world” or universe according to Max Tegmark’s academic paper The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: Many Worlds or Many Words? That concept, applied to the relationship between Marianne and Roland, was the blueprint for the stage play.
Walker stated that what was most important to him when deciding to work on this project was representation.
“It’s rare that an audience gets to see a Black lead actor [i.e., Jackson who played Roland] and a Black director work together on the same project. That’s what was important to me – representation,” he said.
One of his goals has been, he said, to include a Black role in a way that an audience wouldn’t typically see a Black actor. That, he explained, was achieved by casting a Black male lead alongside a White female lead in a play where one of the main topics was the multiverse concept.
The first scene introduced how Marianne and Roland met. During one scenario, the two accidentally bumped into each other at a mutual friend’s barbecue and began to engage in a flirtatious conversation. Then seamlessly, the actors began to recite their lines from the beginning of the story when they met, except this time it was Roland who was more interested and forthcoming with showing his interest in Marianne. The actors re-start the story a few more times, revealing several scenarios in which they may have met.
The following scene was their first date, which the actors also re-enacted multiple times with multiple outcomes. There was then a scene that conveyed infidelity in the relationship. The different scenarios included either Roland or Marianne as the one who confessed to having an affair. The audience also witnessed different dramatic reactions from each partner after finding out that the other had been unfaithful.
Ultimately, it could be concluded that the couple broke up as the next scene was a random encounter between Marianne and Roland at a ballroom dancing class. The two discussed the reason for each being in the dance class. In one instance Marianne was brushing up on her dance skills in preparation for a wedding she would be attending. In a different turn of events, Marianne is at the class preparing for her own wedding, which shocked Roland. Each of the ballroom dance class scenarios ended with Roland proposing to Marianne.
The plot concluded with a scene that focused on Marianne who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The actors first portrayed a scenario that was full of despair and hopelessness as the doctors predicting that she had less than a year to live. A different take on this scene showed Marianne giving Roland the news that her doctors had given her a positive prognosis. In another version, Marianne tells Roland that she is considering assisted suicide.
Throughout the play, each scenario continued to effortlessly present multiple modifications for each act, allowing the audience to choose their own dramatic courses and conclusion to the romantic tale.