BWW Reviews: SHOOTING STAR Aims for Moon at the Boulevard Theatre
This February, The Boulevard Theatre stages a refreshing, smart comedy by Steven Dietz, one of the most produced playwrights in America. His 2008 comedy Shooting Star ranks as a recent piece from his more than 40 adaptations and plays in his extensive repertoire.
With a very limitied numboer of performances remaining at the Boulevard, Shooting Star enthusiastically embraces the opportunity to share some hertfelt humor that breaks open into heartache for Dietz's two characters, Elena and Reed. The pair ultimately becomes trapped in an airport during a snowy blizzard, a weather event, which complements the frigid winter events in Milwaukee that create a perfect match for audiences leading up to Valentine's weekend.
Similar to Elena and Reed cloistered together in the airport, Boulevard audiences cozy up in the black box theatre to engage with the 90-minute, no intermission performance away from winter chills. Because while an actual snowfall dusts Milwaukee outside, Dietz conjures an emotional storm in Elena, the effervescent and enigmatic Anita Domnitz, and her reluctant yet charming companion Reed, the restrained "Businessman in a Box" Jaime Jastrob.
The duo exudes a comfortable chemistry while situated around and over two contemporary red chaises placed against white walls. Domnitz generates the off beat energy of a flower child holding her own on the set's modern vision of dreamlike memories often locked in the heart and Jatrob dons a straight laced grey suit that embodies the mechanical airport on hold. A set and costumes that also explore this fascinating emotional/rational dichotomy.
During these several hours in the airport while Elena and Reed wait for their flights, Dietz unravels the lies and truth buried in these once two idealistic youths who were past college lovers/roomates in a very socially open era when conventional mores were challenged while they converse. Which now appears to contrast their supposedly sold out, slipped from idealism and slid back into the real world middle aged lives, transcending their perhaps politically changed viewpoints. When Reed asks with sincerity how Elena is doing in life, Elena replies, "Cosmically, emotionally, spiritually or physically?"
In Shooting Stars, former Cardinal Stritch University professor David Oswald sensitively directs and sends Elena and Reed on a journey to all those places in their past and present. Hidden assumptions they believed finally revealed and then the actual facts in their past surface like stars in a cloudy sky amid Dietz's dynamic display of humor. Perhaps because as humans who take themselves too seriously at times, Dietz writes with poetic and playful use of language that makes listening to these two characters a great pleasure. Reminding the audience how fragile each person is, and how forgiving they must be; how there own dreams have been broken, transform and then may come true. Which allows individuals in the audience to revel in the achievements that a person may have attained during the changing course of a life deepite their mistakes.
This poignant theme relates to Artistic Director Mark Bucher's Boulevard as well, an example of small artistic companies across the country that produce a wide range of theater adding immensely to the cultural community in multiple cities nation wide. On often miniscule, thin wallet budgets with actors who profoundly care yet have alternate day jobs, this theater genre enlightens as much as any mega regional theater. Perhaps even more because audiences relate with intimacy to the stage, and in this play, they voyeuristically watch Elena and Reed collide in the airport. And even if in the theater or in life, an old adage claims, "if one is unable to reach the moon, then their achievements and dreams fall among the stars."
When audiences sit and enjoy this private confessional and tryst between Elena and Reed, they might recall their own past lives and memories. Aware that they have left some dreams behind, unintentionally, and yet, assured that there are more beyond those ever-present black holes in life. Opportunities ahead to shoot another wishing star into the heavens, that will burn and illuminate with a radiant warmth, perhaps failing to reach the moon, yet landing softly among the starlight, a worthwhile place to hold onto.
Celebrate each and every happiness or success in the past because those events will reignite that warm glow of passion in whatever one chooses to strive for. Similar to the Boulevard's Shooting Star, that will entice the audience to continually search and reach for the moon in their lives.To begin bright new journeys as they grow older in life and inspired by what Elena asks of Reed: "That you would remember something more wonderful, with more ache" to carry them forward towards those dreams.