Constellations – Review by Tom Nissley

An intriguing set looks like a barn wall across the rear of the stage. After a house manager welcomes the audience the lights go dark, and there are pinpricks of light showing patterns of stars. A guitar plays an introduction and the lights go up enough to see a young man and a young woman meeting at a barbecue. They meet and greet several times. Each one different.

The structure – the seating – of the TheaterWorks auditorium has been changed. Now there is seating on four sides of the room with a slightly raised stage in the middle. It is black. Above it in the ceiling there are pinpricks of light like stars. The house manager calls the room to order, suggests no cell phones, unwrapping candy, and shows where not to walk during the intermission. The room goes dark. As lights come up we see a man and a woman. They are starting to say hello at a party – they have a few quick conversations. Both seem nervous.

The pattern of seating has changed. It’s theater in the round, with people on all sides. Lights signal the beginning of the play. A voice in the ceiling gives welcome and instructions. No intermission planned. Stage goes dark. Lights up reveal Marianne (Allison Pistorius) and Roland (M Scott McLean) meeting at a barbecue. They are awkward and hesitate to reveal any interest in connecting.

All over again. The lights come up. Marianne and Roland are meeting. He suggests his wife has gone off to the bathroom. She shrugs. They don’t connect. The lights change. There is some sound and music (courtesy of Billy Bivona, composer and guitarist).

Theaterworks has changed its seating for this production. It’s in the round. On a black raised stage Marianne and Roland are meeting at a barbecue. A guitar plays softly in the background. Marianne is telling Roland that persons who can lick their elbows suddenly know everything that is going on in the universe. But no one can do that.

There is a new set-up for seating at TheaterWorks. It’s in the round. Black stage, pinpricks of light in the CEILING! Two actors are trying to meet each other – each is pushing the other away because they’re needy and nervous. Marianne talks physics. Basic Physics as opposed to Relativity. She’s a physicist. Blending time past-present-future. One item! Roland talks bees. He’s a beekeeper. Billy Bivona makes recurring sounds and intermittent guitar themes. Beautiful.

We’re doing Theater in the Round now. Raised stage in center. Guitarist up to one side. Pinpricks of light in ceiling. Roland and Marianne are becoming an item. He is reading her his paper on bees. “There are three kinds of bees. Worker bees, female, who collect pollen and structure cells and honey. Drones, male, who protect and service the Queen… I am sure of one thing. I love you and I want to be with you. Will you marry me?”

We’re doing that scene several times. Different answers. Finally, she says yes. Wow. Breath of relief. Wondered if these two would ever get together.

But here we go again, because Marianne has a tumor and episodes that make her unable to work and be. Now the repeating scenes take on a new significance of how time never ends and how even when it seems to end, Marianne and Roland will continue to be an item.

For this production we’re doing theater in the round. Two actors accompanied at times by Billy Bivona’s original interactive music. You cannot imagine more natural acting than Scott and Allison provide as over and over we stick with them in reaching for and achieving meaning together right to the end.

Don’t let this one pass you by. It’s fabulous. Directed by Rob Ruggiero, assisted by Taneisha Duggan. Set design by Jean Kim. Superb lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg. Sound design by Michael Miceli.

Information and tickets at, or call 860.527.7838

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre Feb. 8, 2018