BWW Review: Steve Martin's Hilarious METEOR SHOWER is Undiluted Surrealist Vaudeville
They say communication is the key to a successful relationship. They also say there's such a thing as overdoing it.
In Steve Martin's good old fashioned, slam bang Broadway comedy, Meteor Shower, married couple Corky and Norm work hard on communication. Whenever one says or does something that hurts or offends the other, they immediately take a time out to hold hands, look at each other eye-to-eye, and recite their words of healing.
So after Norm makes a playful wise-crack undercutting his wife's cleverness, Corky puts on her serious face and takes her husband aside for their ritual.
"I love you and I know you love me," she says in a flat tone.
"You said, 'I love you and I know you love me,'" he replies, ensuring that he is listening attentively.
"I'm asking you to be more careful with my feelings. They are not playthings," she explains.
"Your feelings are not playthings," he repeats, displaying how he understands what she's saying.
But don't let any of this trick you into thinking that Martin has gathered us together to explore the intimacies of love and marriage. Under the guidance of director Jerry Zaks, a master at bringing out the flashy and funny, this four-person laff-riot eschews sentiment for undiluted surrealist vaudeville.
The play is set in August of 1993, when a Meteor Shower lit up the less-polluted skies of Southern California. Corky and Norm's home in Ojai offers a perfect view.
Amy Schumer's Corky has that bubbly nervousness about her, as someone who is continually upbeat because she's terrified of not being regarded as hip, smart and acceptable. Jeremy Shamos, who excels at playing self-styled nice guys who grow exasperated when others can't see how sensitive he is to others, is a perfect match as Norm.
"If you don't deal with your subconscious, it will deal with you," instructs Corky before offering Norm a pre-wine. ("A wine before the wine. Doesn't count.")
You might say that the repressed couple's guests for an evening of shower-viewing represent both Corky and Norm's subconscious, which has come to deal with them.
Those guests are the overtly alpha Gerald, played with gregarious showmanship by Keegan-Michael Key, and his coldly elegant wife, Laura, played with devastating comic accuracy by Laura Benanti, who often draws out multiple laughs on single lines through subtle physicality.
"I flew in a plane once to follow a solar eclipse," Gerald rhapsodizes. "To be a man and block out the sun longer than nature intended? I defeated the sun. I thought, 'I'm something to contend with.'"
"Gerald can turn the brightest day into the darkest night," Laura admiringly explains.
The ensuing absurdist twists, involving such things as a mysterious eggplant delivery and a hilarious sight gag when a character is actually struck by a meteor, are better seen than explained.
The quartet of comic experts are just sensational together, and Zaks' fast and funny staging keeps us from unnecessarily lingering on vague philosophical points.
From sound designer Fitz Patton's opening blast of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a reminder of the faux-serious of the matters at hand, to the uproarious predicament presented by the play's final clinch, Meteor Shower lights up Broadway.