STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Minimal and maximum go hand-in-hand in the current production of Isadoora Theatre Company.

What is taking place is a feat in acting and directing.

The heady “Constellations” is continuing for four more performances in the cozy, black theater space of Inside/Out Theatre in the lower level of Margaret Lockwood Gallery.

British playwright Nick Payne tells the story of a man and a woman. That sentence is the play at its simplest. Between the beginning and the end, scenes play out in repetitions and blackouts while telling how the man and woman become a couple.

The romance is bumpy, and the telling of its story is a form of theater all its own.

Piecing things together requires…

+ The space. The theater has seating for an audience of 19 and a production team of three.

+ The stage. It’s a square of 20 by 20 or so feet. In it are a couch with a small rug in front of it, four stools placed in pairs to the left and right, and two small tables with wine glasses to the left and right. The walls are black and plain.

+ The players. Kent Moraga portrays Roland, a beekeeper, which takes a certain expertise. Pamela Johnson portrays Marianne, a physicist with a bent toward belief in multiple universes, which takes an expertise beyond that of most mortals as the thinking assesses mortality in this play.

+ The script. It’s mostly back-and-forth between Marianne and Roland with no clues about voicing and inflection as scenes, usually repeated, progress in the building of the story.

+ The director. Richard C. Carlson has a whole lot of duty in determining how the players will shift their tone, shade and emphasis from scene to scene. He’s a kind of orchestra maestro in this situation.

+ The choreography (of a kind). Through blackouts, the players move from place to place in scene to scene. Not only do the players have to memorize bundles of lines for the hour-and-a-half production and how to say them, they have to remember where in the space they are to say them. A sequence starts with a recorded voice saying the first line an actor will speak – sound of interstellar music and a lighting cue included and requiring keen technical coordination.

+ Suspension of reality. Nick Payne gets into the viewer’s head right off the bat. “Do you know why it’s impossible to lick the tips of your elbows? They hold the secret of immortality…” The viewer knows he/she is going on a trip as a kind of guinea pig in experimental theatricality.

+ The story. In the bits and pieces of the sequences, the nuts and bolts of who and what Marianne and Roland are come together – two steps forward, two steps back, one tiny step forward – over and over. First, a relationship between Marianne and Roland is built in fits and starts. There are challenges and near-disaster moments along the way. Marianne is focal, in part because her physicist-ing is so demanding and in part because her mortality is jeopardized and a question arises: What’s she going to do?

+ The performance. Holy cow, what humans who perform/direct for the mere challenge of it can do is amazing. This “show” is all nuance off of fine points learned outside of ordinary life. Pamela Johnson and Kent Moraga – a couple in life – team in a kind of verbal ballet with Richard C. Carlson guiding their every pirouette in their pas de deux. The three are totally impressive, plus the technical (sound/light) finesse is pinpoint.

Like adventuresome theater of the mind? Here it is.

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Running time: 93 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: 3 p.m. June 19; 7:30 p.m. June 22-23; 3 p.m. June 24

Info: (920) 495-5940

Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, masks required

Creative: Playwright – Nick Payne; director – Richard C. Carlson; stage manager – Carol Jensen-Olsen, Loretta Heath; lighting and sound design – Eric Leyendecker; light board – Loretta Heath, Ed DiMaio

Cast:

Marianne – Pamela Johnson

Roland – Kent Moraga

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NEXT: “Charlotte” by Bela Sandor, staged reading. Aug. 6. “Bauer” by Lauren Gunderson, Sept. 23-25, 30-Oct. 1-2.

THE VENUE: Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre is located at 7 S. 2nd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. The space is a variation on black box theater. Some spaces are equipped for that style. This space is adapted to be a theater space. The ceiling is open with a steel beam and ventilation system metalwork. The floor is concrete. The space is in the lower level of the art gallery/studio, with the entrance along a winding sidewalk from the Michigan Street side of the building. The space is a kind of/sort of walk-in basement, though a step beyond that. Adjacent in a hallway are restrooms. For “Constellations,” a door on a north interior wall leads to an imagined variety of spaces, mostly interior. The space suits theater that is especially up close and personal.