“Constellations” In-The-Round at the Cummer

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The 5 & Dime Theatre Company

A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]

The 5 & Dime Theatre opened British playwright Nick Payne’s thought-provoking “Constellations’’ on July 8, 2016. It will run at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood through July 17. Visit www.the 5anddime.org for more information and tickets.

Since its debut in 2011, The 5 & Dime has brought eighteen previous intriguing/challenging plays to Jacksonville audiences using various venues. Their current production lives up to the standards they have set. “Constellation” can be an education for those who see it. The play suggests that we may be living in a multi-universe where multiple outcomes of multiple events exist, with changed thinking, changed words, changed actions, changed destiny. Sound too scientific? Read on, it gets simpler.

_MG_3397The story is that of Marianne (Kristin Alexander) and Roland (Cory Simmons), Londoners who meet at a friend’s barbecue. She is an academic scientist, he is a beekeeper. As the couple’s relationship develops during the course of the play, scenes are portrayed multiple times, each with different words, gestures, timing, and reactions. The play is about eighty minutes long (no intermission) and the lengths of the scenes vary, some are abruptly short, others provide extensive insights into the issues of the characters. After the play, we found ourselves thinking about decisions we had made in the past and how they might have differed (either better or worse) if we had had the opportunity to rewind thoughts and conversations.

The playwright provided no stage directions and Lindsay Curry and Joshua McTiernan, the directors, created intricate stage movements to go along with the demanding lines the actors (who used British accents) had to memorize.

Both roles were incredibly challenging, requiring split-second timing and continued dialogue during the entire production, and were well done by the actors. You may have previously seen the attractive and accomplished Kristin Alexander as the Japanese woman in “Water by the Spoonful” or as the nurse in “The Lyons,” both at Players by the Sea. Cory Simmons made his theatre debut in Jacksonville in 2014, as the leading man James, in “Time Stands Still” at Theatre Jacksonville.

We previously reviewed two 5 & Dime plays produced at the Cummer Museum: “The Pittman Painters” in 2013, and “33 Variations” in 2014. Both used conventional staging with the actors facing the audience. For this show, the theatre company chose in-the-round staging, with a white six-sided stage built in the middle of the room. Artist Adam Walker Hill created a dramatic white construction that hung over the stage, while Light Designer Jim Wiggins used LED lighting with changing colors to create moods for the scenes. Cellist Wesley Navaille provided musical selections prior to and during the production.

The staging allowed the 5 & Dime to accommodate a larger audience than if conventional staging had been used, as the seats surrounded the stage. However, there were drawbacks, as at times, you might be viewing the back of an actor for the length of the scene, and as the actors played to all sides of the stage, it might be difficult to hear all the dialogue.

When playwright Nick Payne was asked about his play, he said it demands an audience that really plays attention. An audience that makes the imaginary leap to change the universe with the cast. Of note: the program includes an extensive Director’s Note with more information.

PRODUCTION TEAM: Directors (Lindsay Curry and Joshua McTiernan), Alexandra Bristol (Choreographer) Stage Manager (Sara Bryant), Production Manager (Lee Hamby), Art Installation (Adam Walker Hill), Sound Design (Erik Anderson), Costume Design (Lee Hamby).

Be sure to go early when you plan to see this show, so you will have time to dine at the Cummer’s wonderful café and visit the garden and galleries.



About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.