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It’s in the Constellations

The small play at The Staircase Theatre about free will, love, friendship, multiverse theory is making its Hamilton premiere after award-winning runs around the world.

There are many ways to connect with Constellations, says Amber Mills, producer of the Hamilton premiere run and one of its two performers.

“The beauty of Constellations is that if you are someone who wants to go deep on big existential questions, this play holds a lot for you. If you’re someone who wants to laugh, this play holds a lot for you. If you are someone who craves a good love story, this play holds a lot for you.”

Mills is a Hamilton actor, singer, producer, and educator. Her credits include productions at the Brott Festival, Hamilton Theatre Inc., Firehall Theatre, Stirling Festival Theatre, and Thousand Islands Playhouse. She can be seen on TVO's show Hi, Opie! as kindergarten teacher Ms. Doney, and is an actual music teacher at Hillfield Strathallan College’s Montessori School. She is completing her MA in community music at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Mills is also the founder and artistic director of Hamilton Theatre Project, known for previous local productions John & Jen (2019) and Ordinary Days (2020), and its focus on intimate pieces of contemporary theatre like Constellations.

The play centres on Marianne, a theoretical physicist (Mills), and Roland, a beekeeper (Colin Palangio), who meet at a barbecue and start an unlikely romantic relationship. What follows is a story across the multiverse as their love waxes and wanes, as they draw closer in each other’s orbits or are repelled.

In one synopsis by Alberta Theatre Projects, Constellations is described as “unfolding in a series of parallel moments over the course of their relationship, the play explores the infinite trajectories that love can take to bring us together or pull us apart. It examines how every choice we make or don’t make changes the outcome and can lead to another life.”

One of its directors, Valerie Planche, described Constellations as “a relationship play about moments when we make decisions, choices, consciously or unconsciously. It’s also about the fleeting nature of this biological existence, life. It’s about consequence, chance, relationship, and love!”

Structurally, this is reflected in the repetition of scenes in the play, often leading to different outcomes. It’s a quirky, intimate story that Mills feels balances “levity and reverence.”

Asked what drew him to Constellations, castmate Colin Palangio says, “I’ve always liked two-handers. I’ve always felt that theatre really is just people talking. I think anything more than two people talking is a spectacle, almost. I like focusing on the scene partner and (the) back and forth.”

Palangio is a graduate of Hamilton’s Westmount High School, where he was deeply involved in theatre and headed the school’s sketch team. His summers were spent in the Theatre Aquarius summer program before he continued his education in the George Brown College theatre program and the Soulpepper Academy.

“I find that there are so many options in this play as opposed to one overarching journey,” he says. “There’s something about this play being split up into these fractured universes that was interesting.”

Amber Mills and Colin Palangio are the two performers in the run of Constellations at the Staircase Theatre. PHOTO: Rachel More

Mills agrees. “Even if it was told using a straightforward narrative structure, I think the story of Marianne and Roland would make for a compelling play,” she says, “but the fact that Nick Payne also uses this innovative device of multiple universes makes for a piece that has much to offer both in form and content.”

Constellations premiered in London’s West End in 2012, the work of Payne, an award-winning British playwright and screenwriter. Payne wrote the play after his father’s death during a period when he also met his future wife. Constellations won best play at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, making its then 29-year-old playwright the youngest winner of the award. There were also multiple nominations at the 2013 Olivier Awards. 

The play opened on Broadway in 2015, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal (in his Broadway debut) with Ruth Wilson, in a two-month run. Wilson was subsequently nominated for a Tony Award for leading actress. The play also received three Drama League Award nominations, including best play, best actor, and best actress. That same year, a unique Chinese “stage movie” version of Constellations was translated and produced by Wang Chong, who used multiple on-stage cameras to capture “fifty scenes in fifty takes.”

The Canadian premiere of Constellations took place in 2016, co-produced by Montreal's Centaur Theatre and Toronto’s Canadian Stage Company. The play has also been performed throughout the United States as well as in Thailand, Holland, and Australia.

It had an ambitious West End revival in 2021, staged with four casts in rotation: Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O'Dowd. Payne revised his play for Douglas and Tovey as characters Roland and Manuel. The production won Olivier Awards in 2022 for best revival and best actress (Atim), and received nominations for best director and best actor (Douglas).

A reviewer for The Guardian remarked during its premiere run that the play’s strength came from “the human warmth of the writing and acting.”

“While the play can be enjoyed on many levels, I feel this will most appeal to people who are perhaps a little further along in their lives, at a point where they are reviewing choices they have made in the past and looking to those that will shape the next phase of their lives,” director Brandon Vedelago says.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Vedelago has been an educator and director of student productions for almost 20 years at Hillfield Strathallan College. It’s his task to reimagine this British play for Hamilton audiences in what the press release calls “an homage to second chances.” With a wealth of experience directing students in musicals and plays, Vedelago says he was drawn to Constellations by “the challenge of helping the actors to create multiple distinct universes while maintaining fidelity to their characters … all while doing it in-the-round.”

Vedelago adds that the Hamilton production “is a labour of love for Amber, and her passion and dedication brought out the best in the entire team.” Palangio wholeheartedly agrees. He also highlights Vedelago’s own contributions as well as those of stage manager Rachel More.

For Mills, staging the play at The Staircase Theatre was a no-brainer, saying, “it is one of the only spaces in the downtown core for a small play like this. We wanted a venue that was easy to get to and offered a bar or cafe for pre- and post-show gatherings.” 
“I believe there is a hunger, especially post-pandemic, for sharing space with our community,” Mills explains. “If you come to see Constellations, you’ll be not only watching an innovative, romantic, smart story, but you’ll be engaging in your local community and experiencing something that will never happen in the same way, with the same folks, ever again. That’s why live theatre is so magical.”


The Staircase Theatre, Bright Room 
27 Dundurn St. N., Hamilton
Run time: approx 75 mins
June 14, 15, 20, 21 & 22, 8 p.m.; June 16, 2 p.m.
Adults: $30
Students/Seniors/Arts workers: $25
For tickets:
Credit card online, cash in person at the door
For information: 289-937-2552,