Sunday, February 15, 2015

Broadway Review: Constellations with Jake Gyllenhaal

The Laws of Physics, Relationships May Not Be What They Seem
By Lauren Yarger
The Broadway sensation sparking some of biggest conversation this season is a tiny little play by Nick  Payne called Constellations.

Clocking in at just over an hour, the production presented by Manhattan Theatre Club and the Royal Court Theatre, where the play first appeared,  features riveting performances by film star Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler,” “Brokeback Mountain”) in his Broadway debut and  two-time Olivier Award winner Ruth Wilson (TV’s “The Affair,”  “Luther”).

Set on a black stage, dressed by white balloons (designed by Tom Scutt and sharply lighted by Lee Curran), Constellations tells the story, sometimes in real time, sometimes in the past and sometimes in alternative realities, of a beekeeper  named Roland (Gyllenhaal) and Marianne (Wilson), a quantum physicist.

Under the direction of Michael Longhurst,  another science – chemistry – takes stage as well as the actors work in sync to bring the characters’ relationship and a unique parallel universe to life. In fact, we probably are seeing stars in the form of Tony Awards nominations here.  The performances are stellar, with atmosphere and body language turned into a sort of choreography helmed by Movement Director Lucy Cullingford (enhanced by original music composed by Simon Slater).

We are enraptured from their first date at a barbecue. They start a conversation that leads to a relationship – or doesn’t -- depending on what is said and how much they are willing to risk. It’s “what if” and “what could have been” mixed with “what is”  and “what has to be” in a delectable symphony of unending possibilities – or predetermined destiny -- in short scenes representing the split-second decisions that make up our lives.

Different scenarios contain the same dialogue, but are delivered with different intonation altering the outcome.  Shifts between scenes and realities are sharp and easy to follow (even if the meaning some times isn’t).

Will Marianne survive an illness? Is there some way it could have been avoided? Just how much do free will and faith factor into anything we do or is it all written in the stars? To give many more details would be to take away from the experience. These and other interesting questions keep us riveted, even if we don’t follow all of the scientific theories explored.

In the end it’s hard to believe that so much thought-provoking drama could be crammed into just 70 minutes. That satisfied feeling is important, of course, since ticket prices top out at $145. At the final curtain, or should I say balloon fall, you can’t help but feel like you have just witnessed a unique and important piece of theater.

Constellations plays through March 15 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $67-$145; 

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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