Written by British playwright Nick Payne, it tells the story of theoretical physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland who meet and fall in love. They meet and don’t fall in love. And probably also never meet. In a multiverse, Roland and Marianne have many different outcomes to their story – the lights go out, the sound crackles, and they bounce to another universe to start the scene again.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson were stunning. The range of emotions that they demonstrated was extraordinary, switching from hysterical laughter to sobbing in the blink of an eye, and I loved how a scene would change in the middle of discussions or arguments without losing any of the power. Both Jake and Ruth expertly played each version of their characters and the audience rooted for them in every universe. The end of the play was heartbreaking and there were a lot of people wiping away tears, including me.
I’m not familiar with Ruth’s work (The Affair is on my ‘to-watch’ list) but I’ve been a huge Jake Gyllenhaal fan since Donnie Darko, so to see him was an absolute treat. We debated for a couple of days about buying tickets, and thank goodness we did as I don’t think we’ll see anything as perfectly crafted as this play, even if Jake’s British accent sometimes slips into Australian. I’ll forgive him – British is hard.
With no props, no furniture, and only two actors, the 70-minute play was hauntingly sparse but totally worked. The balloons filling the stage gave it an ethereal feel and allowed all the focus to be on the actors. No distractions – all of your attention was on Marianne and Roland.
When you tell people that the play is based on string theory and quantum physics, you can see them almost glazing over, but the dialogue is so funny, charming, and romantic. I am relieved the blizzard of 2015 didn’t stop me from seeing this play – I would have been so sad to have missed it.