“Satellites” is a romantic tale of separation and reunion

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Terrell Wheeler is sitting on the ground and pointing into the air and Ellyn Heald is also sitting on the ground looking up at where he is pointing.
Satellites. Terrell Wheeler and Ellyn Heald. Photo by Mike Peters
Terrell Wheeler and Ellyn Heald looking into each others eyes while their hands are on each others shoulders.
Scene in Satellites. Terrell Wheeler and Ellyn Heald. Photo by Mike Peters

Premiere Stages in Union has, over the years, come up with new and imaginative plays through its Play Festival. Its latest offering, Satellites by Erin Breznitsky, follows in this tradition. Her play is a deep character study of a couple reuniting after many years, trying to find a starting place to renew their bond. It is funny and poignant, but above all else, it is a romance grounded in reality, and it is one of the best shows I’ve seen this year.

The story starts with the reunion of its two characters. Astronaut Mike Turner (Terrell Wheeler) has inexplicably returned after seven years from a solo space mission gone awry. His wife, Dr. Katherine Sparks (Ellyn Heald), a marine biologist, after years of hoping for a miracle, has had to cope with the probability of his death, raising their two children alone and rebuilding her own life. The first time they see each other again, neither knows quite how to respond to the other.

The play moves backward and forward in time. The flashbacks show how Mike and Katherine’s relationship started and grew. Those scenes are juxtaposed with scenes set in the present, with both of them struggling to reclaim the right amount of closeness — and space — each one needs to get back to a semblance of normal.

Terrell Wheeler is sitting on a chair with his hands raised up to his shoulders.
Scene in Satellites with Terrell Wheeler. Photo by Mike Peters

Playwright Breznitsky proves herself a talent to be watched. She has created a modern romance, one that does not resort to the usual, sometimes silly romantic tropes.

Her talent is matched by the flawless performances of Wheeler and Heald as they navigate the treacherous waters of rebuilding a relationship. Their effortless transitioning in scenes set in various times is a miniature class in the actor’s art. The writing and acting are well-served by the inspired direction of Artistic Director John J. Wooten.

Satellites will fill the hunger audiences have for a solid, realistic portrayal of a modern romance. It will not answer the great, burning questions of our time, but it will leave audiences satisfied and, possibly, hopeful.

It is a tender, honest story told with compassion and understanding. I cannot more strongly urge you to see Satellites before its run ends.

Satellites is presented by Premiere Stages at the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center at Kean University in Union through July 30, 2023.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit premierestagesatkean.com or call 908-737-4092. 

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.