All through the seventy minute running time of ‘Constellations’ at The Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, my mind was mostly going through one thing: imagining that the character of Roland, played here by Allen Leech, was being played by Jake Gylenhaal. You see, when this play, written by Nick Payne, premiered on Broadway in 2015, Gylennhaal played the role to raves, and it has always been a big frustration of mine that I never saw that production. And yes, it may seem unfair for me to pin this on Leech, who does a credible job in this production, but what can I do, that’s how I feel.
Leech and Ginnifer Goodwin are competent enough to essay Roland and Marianne, who play unlikely lovers. Payne’s one-act play centers around two people and how constellations play a part on how what we do and what we say impact whatever happens after. The way the lovers meet, for example, are played in very different ways depending on how one reacts or answers a question posed. Roland and Marianne, depending on the scene becomes embroiled in a relationship, or gets shut down from the very beginning. It’s quite a poignant concept, and Payne’s dialogue will make you laugh and at the same time be wistful. If you have ever fallen in love in your life (and I would say all of us have) you will be able to relate to this piece. I just wish Goodwin and Leech had more ‘star power,’ as I think this play needs that punch. While they are serviceable, I wanted actors to bring a larger-than-life aspect to the characters, written as mostly simpler folks. There is a dearth of dynamic actors in Hollywood, and I wish they had gone more for ‘bigger.’