Choice and Consequence Onstage at Florida Studio Theatre

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 21, 2018

Opening tonight in Bowne’s Lab Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre continues its Stage III series with a production of Constellations, by Nick Payne. Part rom-com, part metaphysical dive into multiverse theory and the perils of infinite consequence, the production pushes the form as it pushes the audience, turning a simple boy-meets-girl story into a powerful exploration of both the fragile truth of romantic relationships and the unrelenting gulf between meaning and language.

Following the relationship of Roland and Marianne, played by Chris Tipp and Alexis Hyatt, respectively, the play drops the audience into their world only in those pivotal moments where every choice matters—even if, perhaps especially, there’s no way of knowing it at the time. “The tone of voice of one word can change the direction your life goes,” says FST Associate Artist Jason Cannon, who directs Constellations. Thus the play unfolds across parallel lines as small movements and misunderstandings echo through time and space to create very different realities and relationships for Roland and Marianne.

A two-person show with one costume for each character, two props and no set, Constellations represents theater “in its purest, rawest form.” Stripped down (“Elegant,” clarifies Cannon) the performers, crew and audience direct their focus onto the relationship unfolding, or unraveling, onstage. “You can look at it as fewer tools,” says Cannon, “or you can look at it as fewer places to hide.”

Esoteric and introspective, Constellations marks a far cry from the family-friendly fare of the Main Stage, with its big comedies and fan-favorite musicals, but that’s the entire point of Stage III, says Cannon, and an important callback to FST’s heritage. Making its name as the small and edgy theater in town, Stage III allows the theater to preserve that element while growing and pleasing its established audience base. But there remains a significant portion of that audience, says Cannon, that “wants to get punched in the mouth” (emotionally or intellectually, not literally) when they sit down for a show. For them, Stage III comes out swinging.

Opening tonight at Florida Studio Theatre, Constellations runs through March 16.

Pictured: Alexis Hyatt and Chris Tipp. Photo by Matthew Holler.

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