You may not think Pat Sajak, Spider-Man and the theory of alternate dimensions have anything in common, but you would be wrong. They all contributed (directly or not) to a theater production coming to Northeast Philly this week.
Constellations will open at the Mayfair Theater at 6243 Frankford Ave. this Thursday and will have showtimes Thursday through Sunday for the next three weeks.
It’s a show for nerds and romantics alike, but mostly romantics. It explores the relationship of a couple through 77 different vignettes spread across several different timelines. Audiences will see how a slight difference in their decisions can send their relationship down vastly different paths in parallel realities.
“We’re not playing 77 different characters, but we are playing 77 pretty similar characters,” said Kevin DeJesus-Jones, one of the stars.
It stars DeJesus-Jones and Kristin Devine, a couple both on the stage and off. The pair put on a production of the same show down in Florida, and are getting the opportunity to bring it here after John Cambridge, director of Wings of Paper, asked Devine what her dream project at the Mayfair Theater would be.
“I was flabbergasted by their ambition in trying to change this space as quickly as they were trying to change it,” Devine said of the recent construction of the theater, which opened back in March. Offers such as putting on a show with no catch rarely come up in the industry, she said.
For DeJesus-Jones, Mayfair Theater is a lot tinier than one of his recent roles, and there are a lot fewer stunts involved. He performed aerial stunts as Spider-Man in the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the most expensive show in Broadway history. He was the hero flier, meaning it was his job to suit up as Spidey and do aerial stunts such as fighting Green Goblin while suspended from wires above the audience.
Audiences won’t have to crane their necks to see him here, though. Most of the show will take place on an intimate stage with chairs facing from both directions – a closeness Devine said suits a production like this.
“You’re able to have such a higher level of accuracy from moment to moment when you don’t have to consider projecting to everyone,” Devine said. “They’re able to receive what you’re giving because they’re within your space.”
Written by English playwright Nick Payne, the show first premiered in England in 2012. It follows a beekeeper and a cosmologist across their romantic relationship, through meetings, moving in togethers, break-ups and rekindling’s. Those are all plural on purpose – the show explores the concept of alternate realities where lives move different directions and will explore multiple outcomes of their relationship.
“String theory and quantum physics are an important part of the show, but it’s really about the relationship, this couple and how making sacrifices, give and take, and communication all factor in,” said Adam Maggio, the show’s director.
It’s a fast-paced, emotionally taxing story. The show explores 77 vignettes in less than 90 minutes, demanding an emotional range from the beginning to multiple ends of a relationship from the two actors in such a short span of time.
“Going through so many versions so quickly is the biggest challenge, but it’s emotionally draining in the same way that going to the gym is draining. Afterward you’re like, I hurt, but I like it,” DeJesus-Jones said.
DeJesus-Jones, Devine and Maggio met nearly 10 years ago when they were students studying theater at the University of Miami. For DeJesus-Jones and Devine, it’s their last project before they tie the knot in a few months.
“We’re preparing for this instead of planning our wedding,” Devine joked.
They knew each other for years in school, but it wasn’t for years until Devine accepted his advances. Perhaps it had something to do with Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune talking DeJesus-Jones up to her. Sajak was involved in a show the two were working on in Connecticut, and he would talk DeJesus-Jones up to Devine when he noticed their flirtations.
“Pat Sajak was my wingman,” DeJesus-Jones laughed.
The play debuts Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. with a pay-what-you-can preview with a suggested donation of $15. Showtimes include Aug. 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 4 and 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at WingsOfPaperTheatre.org or at eventbrite.com/e/constellations-tickets-62229768914.