OGDEN — How often do you get to go to the theater to learn about stuff like string theory and quantum physics?
Well, here’s your chance.
“Constellations,” a two-character play making its Utah premiere, opens Friday at Good Company Theatre. The play begins with Marianne, a physicist, and Roland, a beekeeper, meeting at a party. What follows is a splintering of alternate realities that offers a wide range of possible outcomes to their chance meeting. Maybe they hit it off, maybe they don’t. Maybe they fall in love, maybe not. Maybe she breaks his heart, or he breaks hers, or they break each other’s.
Written by British playwright/screenwriter Nick Payne, “Constellations” examines — in short snippets of what are understood to be infinite possibilities — how even the most seemingly insignificant change in our lives can completely alter the future.
“It’s about string theory and quantum physics, and about a romance,” said director Tracy Callahan. “And it’s about the idea that you and I can be sitting at a table having a conversation, and somewhere else in another galaxy another two of us is having a conversation that’s just slightly different.”
Alicia Washington, who with her sister Camille founded Good Company Theatre, said they’ve been fighting to land Nick Payne’s critically acclaimed play almost since it premiered in London in early 2012.
“It’s always refreshing when you pick up a play or musical and — almost like a book — you can’t put it down and it sticks with you,” Washington said. “That’s what ‘Constellations’ did for me.”
Washington describes the play like a kaleidoscope.
“If it’s shifted ever-so-slightly, you get something completely different,” she said.
The play stars Jessie Nepivoda as Roland and Haley McCormick as Marianne.
Although it offers a fractured look at reality, there is one storyline that runs through the entire piece like a thread, according to Washington. The play also asks viewers to examine the idea that everything happens for a reason.
“Is destiny a thing, or is life a changeable thing?” Callahan offers.
Adds Washington: “It makes us examine the idea that everything is predestined.”
Although the play jumps quickly to alternate realities, Washington says it doesn’t have a repetitiveness to it — and it doesn’t feel like a gimmick.
“There’s a freshness and a genuineness to each aspect of the relationship,” she says.
The other thing that sticks out for Washington is the hopefulness in the play.
“Even though — when you think how big the galaxy or universe is — it can feel lonely,” she said. “But there’s always the inevitability that we have chance encounters that change our lives.”
When she was invited to direct the play, Callahan, a professor of theater who oversees the acting and directing program at Weber State University, called emeritus faculty member Brad Carroll of the school’s physics department for a crash course in quantum physics. He came in and spoke first with the director, and then with her two actors.
“I think people will enjoy this play,” said Callahan, who directed “The Cripple of Inishmaan” last fall at Weber State. “It’s really moving, and it doesn’t stay in one place. Once you get the idea of what’s going on, you end up wondering, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ It’s sort of a guessing game, and I think that’s very engaging.”
“For Better or Worse”
“Constellations” kicks off the 2019 theater season for the 70-seat Good Company Theatre. The season is being expanded from five to eight shows this year, and Washington said they’re eager to increase their arts presence after moving locations.
“We’re just ready to see what we can do with our space, now that we’ve been here a year,” she said. “We’re ready to offer more theater to the community, and help people get into the routine of supporting the arts in Ogden.”
The theme for this year’s season is “For Better or Worse,” which Washington sees as a fitting description of the state of our country right now. Good Company has developed a reputation for offering thought-provoking, eclectic theater.
“Last year, we toed the line and did three large musicals. We wanted to push ourselves and see what that felt like,” Washington said. “Utah is a musical theater state — which I have my degree in, and I love — but the state produces a lot of it. So we want to do titles that aren’t typically produced.”
And Washington said she and her sister spend a lot of time making sure their plays, performers and those behind the scenes represent diversity of all types.
After “Constellations,” the rest of the season will include:
Feb. 14-17 — “You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway!” is a GCT original musical revue celebrating African-American showstoppers.
March 8-24 — “Gloria,” by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, a story about an ambitious group of editorial assistants at a notorious Manhattan magazine.
April 26-May 12 — “The Children,” by Lucy Kirkwood, about a couple of retired nuclear engineers after a devastating series of world events.
June 7-23 — “The View UpStairs,” by Max Vernon, is about a young fashion designer from 2017 who buys an abandoned building in New Orleans only to be transported to a vibrant 1970s gay bar.
Aug. 2-11 — Workshop performance of “The Jungle,” by Nathan Dame and Robert Baumgartner Jr. It’s a musical adaptation of the well-known Upton Sinclair novel.
Sept. 13-29 — “Ripped” by Rachel Bublitz, tells the story of a college freshman whose sexual encounter leaves her confused and concerned that she may have been a victim of rape.
Oct. 25-Nov. 10 — “blu,” by Virginia Grise, is described as an epic poem for the stage, tracing the explosive after-effects of prison and hunger, desire and war.
Season subscriptions are available for $125 at www.goodcotheatre.com.
For more information, call the theater at 801-917-4969.