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Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In on METEOR SHOWER on Broadway

Meteor Shower

Tonight's the night! Meteor Shower officially opens tonight, Wednesday, November 29 at the Booth Theatre.

Meteor Shower stars Emmy Award winners Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key, both in their Broadway debut, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, Tony Award nominee Jeremy Shamos, and is directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks.

Playwright Steve Martin will in fact celebrate coast-to-coast openings this evening, with Meteor Shower opening on Broadway and Bright Star celebrating its opening night in San Francisco at the Curran.

It's a hot night in Ojai, California, and Corky (Schumer) and her husband Norm (Shamos) are having another couple over. Laura (Benanti) and Gerald (Key), though, aren't looking for a casual evening of polite small talk with new friends. Eventually, the two couples find themselves in a marital free-fall matched in velocity and peril only by the smoldering space rocks tearing through the sky. Entertaining has never been more entertaining than in this "cosmic comedy from the master of the American absurd" (Variety).

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: It would be more satisfying if Mr. Martin, who started working on the play in the 1990s and then put it aside, had found a way to maintain character integrity while developing his bigger ideas and also remaining funny. But that's a tough set of balls to juggle.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: 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.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: What ensues is one of the funniest, and wildest, games of social and sexual one-upsmanship since, well maybe since John Avildsen's 1981 film Neighbors, which starred Martin's former Saturday Night Live pals John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Martin has a strong stylistic kinship with the late genius Thomas Berger, author of the novel on which that film was based. Both are specialists in the exacting style of genre parody (Berger also wrote Little Big Man and Meeting Evil).

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: Steve Martin has taken what might have made a good story for one of his New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs" columns and turned it into a full-length play for Broadway - assuming you consider 80 minutes full-length. "Meteor Shower," which opened Wednesday at the Booth Theatre, would be consistently hilarious if the comedy could be watched in the time it takes to read one of his New Yorker columns. The other 60 or so minutes of Martin's new play is little more than set-up and filler, often repeated.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: With one toe dipped uncertainly in sketch comedy and another in theater of the absurd, Steve Martin's "Meteor Shower" comes across as oddly, even merrily, flat-footed. Big-time comedians Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key make their Broadway debuts in this lightweight affair, one in which they and co-stars Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos do at least manage to give a convincing impression of having a swell old time.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: No doubt Martin had in mind a cutting commentary on the obstacles faced in keeping a modern marriage together, and the vital importance for a couple of presenting a united front, even against the enemy within. But Meteor Shower is too busy setting up jokes to create the kind of fleshed out characters and relationships necessary to give the comedy real teeth, or to make us fear for the union under siege. Martin's structural gimmick involving time, and a Fight Club-style twist hinted at in Corky's earlier warning, seem more like improv-comedy fodder than grist for a full-length play.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: But clever lines and canny body language only get you so far, and there comes a point when this lightweight comedy just gives up and implodes on itself from lack of thought and direction. Clocking in at little more than an hour, "Meteor Shower" could use a few more scenes to get its head together.

Matt Windman, amNY: Unfortunately, "Meteor Shower" (as directed by Jerry Zaks, who recently staged the "Hello, Dolly!" revival) turned out to be a nonsensical and tedious skit that is simultaneously starry and substandard, flimsy and overstuffed. I'm even tempted to call it a "trainwreck" (in a nod to Schumer's hit 2015 film).

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Which is not to say it does not achieve something worthwhile: an updating of absurdism for Gen Xers, starring their own kind but writ and choreographed by their elders. (Poor Gen Xers; those boomers just won't let go.) That marriage of the new stand-up/improv elite with the disgorged pain of a great comic writer suffering through a long stay on a planet America clearly spinning off its axis is what I have not quite seen before. Most neo-absurdist playwrights, your Will Enos and Annie Bakers, are gently compassionate satiric observers. They don't have Zaks out there in the dark going louder, faster, quicker, funnier, smarter, clearer, for goodness sake. Martin did.

Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: The laughter is definitely more raucous on Broadway than it was in San Diego. The daffy non-sequiturs are delivered with lunatic aplomb. Everything is crisper, including the modern Californian home in Ojai (designed by Beowulf Boritt to tickle Broadway theatergoers' fetish for flashy real estate). The blasts of Beethoven and the jaunty celestial displays between scenes accentuate the briskness of Zaks' staging. But the play is still the play, which is to say it's barely a play at all. "Meteor Shower" is really a collection of funny (in both senses of the word) lines, packaged together with a few conceptual ideas tossed about in a manner that can seem random even if there's an all-too-tidy explanation written into this new version of the script.

Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly: Meteor Shower is a very funny play. Keening-like-a-howler-monkey funny. Design-a-new-cry-laughing-emoji funny. What it is not, however, is a substantial play. At 80 minutes with no intermission, this two-couples-one-weird-evening show is shorter than an episode of Saturday Night Live, with which it shares a familiar sketch comedy sensibility. You can imagine the SNL writers-room pitch for a version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but with four of modern-day America's most hilariously loathsome people.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: Martin's play is an experimental comedy that sometimes feels like an extended sketch show in which the same scenes are replayed again and again with different outcomes. The story is a little like that of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Set in 1990s California, it sees one married couple entertaining another at their swanky home. Instead of playing "get the guests", as Martha and George do, the guests here seem on a mission to "get the hosts", in more ways than one. The result is an occasionally brittle but seldom biting comedy, a not exactly subtle piece of writing about domestic relationships and the games people play with each other, given a cosmic edge by a spectacular meteor shower.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The play is a brisk, intermission-less 80 minutes, and its problem is that every character, if not unsavory, is not that likable. Do they feel imperiled? Not really. Do we care about their relationship faultiness? No. Both couples are playing games, and both know they are playing games, and we are in on the games.

Joe Dziemianowicz, The Daily News: Amy Schumer's Broadway debut is no trainwreck. Her deft and daffy performance is a bright spot in wild and crazy guy Steve Martin's "Meteor Shower" at the Booth Theatre. The play, seen in previous runs in California and Connecticut, is heavy with absurdity and modestly laced with laughs. But it has the lightweight feel of an extended, if not overextended, skit.

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: With a less-talented cast, this would be a hot mess not worth the effort. But Martin has enlisted some high-power comedians - namely Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key, both making their Broadway debuts - to deliver the goods. And that they do, along with Broadway vets Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos, all directed by Jerry Zaks in a limited run (through Jan. 21) that set records with a ginormous $7.5 million advance.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: Meteor Shower may not be groundbreaking (few meteors are), but comedy doesn't have to be revelatory to work. And Martin's particular brand of humor is loopy enough to keep us interested. He's also a master of the dad joke: The extended setup that builds to a wince-inducing punch line. (Re: Norm's dick: "It's been photographed by Mapplethorpe." "How did he hear about it?" "Word of mouth.") Yeah, yeah, groans all around - but you can't help giggling, too. And you could do far worse than spend 80 minutes chuckling and groaning in the company of this game foursome of actors (there's far worse out there right now). So grab a pre-wine or three and settle in for some puns and some Perseids on this lightest of all dark nights of the soul.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York; Schumer, in a confident stage debut, is very funny as our conventional but malleable heroine (who claims to suffer from "exploding head syndrome"), and nobody does nice-guy-finally-losing-it quite like Shamos; while Key sometimes seems a bit trapped in Gerald's booming swagger, the marvelous Benanti is hilarious throughout as his lusciously vague, mercurial companion. Yet despite a somewhat strained attempt to explain itself at the end, Meteor Shower never quite coalesces into a convincing whole. Its entertaining moments blaze, then disappear into an empty sky.

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: Steve Martin's lump of sight gags, one-liners and situation comedy streaks toward Broadway. A couple v couple amusement first written in the 1990s, it pits a dull, normal pair (Amy Schumer and Jeremy Shamos) against a more devious duo (Keegan-Michael Key and Laura Benanti). Norm and Corky, owners of a tony pad in Ojai, have invited Gerald and Laura over for wine, crab dip and astronomy. Sparks fly. So do asteroids. So do some of the jokes.

Christopher Kelly, Imagine a half-baked, barely coherent "Saturday Night Live" sketch, and then imagine it repeated, with only the slightest variation, for 80 interminable minutes, and you'll get a sense of "Meteor Shower," the new play written by Steve Martin that also marks the Broadway debut of Amy Schumer.

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