What would you change in your life? What if those changes already exist, your choices were all different and everything that can happen does happen? For actors Paul Hurley and Christie Maturo, that becomes reality on Aug. 18.
That’s when their performance of Nick Payne’s lauded stage play “Constellations” manifests onstage at the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. The exploration of love and free will amid a quantum multiverse of possibilities sold itself to their new production company.
“This was one of the 10 most-produced plays in this country last year. I think a big part of that is regional theaters see two people, no set and it’s all sort of actor-driven,” Hurley said.
At the outset of the single act, Roland and Marianne meet at a barbecue. She comes on to him, makes a joke. He responds, “In a relationship.”
In a flash, they’re meeting again, same scenario and dialogue. This time he responds with “I just broke up with somebody and this isn’t going to work out.”
Another restart and this time Roland’s married. It shifts again. Once more into the romantic breach and they match.
Roland the beekeeper listens as theoretical physicist Marianne explains ideas of numerous universes spawned in every moment and the odd opening clarifies. For 75 minutes they go through a relationship’s twists, dissolution and resolution, elation and tragedy. It’s a clever and well-crafted storytelling method.
“All that aside, the relationship of the two characters is so lovely and charming and full of ups and downs and turns that it drew me to want to do it,” Maturo said.
Considering its minimalist presentation, the bare-bones task is best filled by accomplished thespians. Hurley and Maturo hold the resumes for it. They’re both Equity actors with a decade of repertory work. Both hold graduate degrees.
Maturo has done regional and national TV commercials, is a Second City Conservatory grad and spent years in the Las Vegas cast of the immersive theater event “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.” She also co-wrote and starred in the web series “Hey You, It’s Me.” She joined the faculty at Midwestern State University two years ago.
Hurley has a lengthy record with Shakespearean and classical theater companies in Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Milwaukee and numerous other cities. He joined the USA faculty in 2015.
The pair crossed paths at a Meisner technique workshop in Oregon last summer. They each noted their respective college locations — Mobile and Wichita Falls, Texas — were two hours from professional theater. Collaboration was sparked, grants were written for performance in both cities and Now Theatre Co. was born.
The play runs Aug. 18-20 in Mobile. Friday and Saturday curtain is 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $16, $14 for seniors/military/USA faculty and staff and $12 for students. For tickets, call 251-460-6306.
Brand new Midwestern faculty member Sally Story is the director. Rehearsals have been ongoing in Texas and soon they’ll be in Mobile running through vital tech rehearsals.
“There’s about 50 universes in the play. A couple go on for four or five pages but some last for two lines then flip on to the next. Lights and sound will transition from one universe to the next,” Hurley said.
Maturo researched the physics filling Marianne’s mind. After boggling her grey matter, she cut to the essence.
“The science is all over my head and honestly, it wasn’t going to help me play this character. It’s more about her passion for the subject and what life could be,” Maturo said.
What was the play’s biggest challenge for each?
“Being honest in [Marianne’s] illness. Toward the end, she’s having difficulty with any linear train of thought and communicating. I want to do that honestly and not have it come across as theatrical or for show,” Maturo said.
Hurley pointed to the whiplash pacing, going from highs to lows, intensity to relaxation in a relationship’s key points — endlessly. They run a scene’s arc, then immediately do it again. And again.
“Getting engaged. Breaking up. Getting back together. Seeing terminal illness. Everything is high stakes, and in one second you erase all of it and start in a completely different place. It’s basically like this: You end one scene crying and the very next scene you start with a joke and there’s no transition. It’s a one-second change,” Hurley said.
“So how long do y’all anticipate being in therapy after this is over?” I asked.
“Well, we’re actors, so forever,” Maturo quipped.