The Constructivists Delve Into the Science of Love
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Matthew Scales (Wyatt) and Madeline Wakley (Merryn) in "To Fall in Love." Photo couretsy of The Constructivists.
Is falling in love really up to fate? According to science, absolutely not.
In a famous study conducted over 20 years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron successfully watched two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Six months later, the couple married and invited the entire lab to the ceremony.
But can this study make two people fall in love again? That’s the question behind The Constructivists’ next production, To Fall in Love by Jennifer Lane. Thirty-somethings Merryn (Madeline Wakley) and Wyatt (Matthew Scales) are on the verge of ending their marriage after a horrific tragedy, but still willing to give it one last shot. The entire play takes place in Wyatt’s new pre-furnished apartment, in real time.
“There’s not a lot of shows that get done in Milwaukee that are based in realism,” Wakley says. “It’s just two people having a conversation for the duration of the show, without changing time or location. It’s all happening right in front of you.”
The study Merryn and Wyatt complete throughout the play creates closeness through a series of 36 questions that encourage mutual vulnerability. The questions become more personal as time passes, from “If you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be?” to “If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?”
The inquiries also call for the pair to make observations about each other, including question 28 that states “Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met.”
Madeline Wakley and Matthew Scales. Photo courtesy of The Constructivists.
A popular New York Times essay from 2015, To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This, inspired Lane’s play. In the article, university professor Mandy Len Catron reflects on her experience testing the study with a colleague. Catron recalls feeling the most uncomfortable during the moments where she had to make confessions about her partner, not herself.
After the questions are complete, the study asks for the couple to stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. Spoiler alert: Catron and her colleague did fall in love, although she believes it may have happened regardless as they knew each other prior.
“For a lot of people love falls into two categories, either it’s that hopeless romantic type or it’s that Notebook kind of love,” Scales says. “People sort of romanticize it without getting into the reality of it and realizing that love is ugly, love is messy, but most of all love is hard.”
The Constructivists’ production of To Fall In Love is a Midwest premiere, with the final draft of the script recently published in 2017. The two-hander will be fittingly staged in the intimate Underground Collaborative theater.
“I prefer small audiences because of the experience it provides,” says Jaimelyn Gray, To Fall in Love director, plus founder and artistic director of The Constructivists. “Not to (discredit going) to a big beautiful theater and sharing time with your 350 best friends, but there’s that particular quality we are trying to build of that intimate shared experience that is part of that full theater spectrum.”
To Fall in Love, presented by The Constructivists, runs March 29 – April 13 at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. To purchase tickets, visit theconstructivists.org.