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Second Chances

There's a natural assumption when it comes to second chances - that we want one.

That might not always be the case. Take, for example, the scenario laid down in playwright Steven Dietz's dramatic-comedic work, "Shooting Star." A man and woman who were lovers while college students in the 70s cross paths by pure chance in a snowed-in airport 25 years later.

Will this serendipitous meeting result in rekindled passion, love? Will they reunite after all these years? Given the winning combination of Dietz's witty dialogue and the top flight acting abilities of Everyman staple Deborah Hazlett (Elena) and Paul Morella (Reed), the audience is presented with two unavoidably likeable characters so, of course, we all want them to get back together.

Question is, do they?

In one of the many "sidebar monologues" that occur, where Elena and Reed take turns providing the audience with important exposition and insight into their characters' motivations, Reed reveals his mind when he first catches glimpse of his old flame. Should he pretend he didn't see her and keep walking? Should he approach her? He makes an astute observation of the many "near misses" that likely occur every day, people almost encountering one another...and perhaps there's a good reason they don't: "Do you really want to keep running into people you're done with?"

It's a lesson Elena and Reed take the entire play to learn, but that's life. Whether parents or peers or just Oprah, we are told things we should and shouldn't do, to protect ourselves, for our well being, but how often do we do them? Human beings need to try, so we can embrace, first hand, the failure, the pain of some kind or another, before we learn.  There's no substitute for experience.   

As voyeurs to this process, unfolding in a small snippet of Airport Anywhere USA (as per usual, the Everyman does a masterful job in its set design-- the generic, gray "pleather" seats, signs noting "GATE 35," the announcements from "The office of Homeland Security," even the oversized windows where we watch snow fall "as big as doilies" as Elena observes, make you feel you're indeed stranded in a land of less than "aeronautic tranquility"), the audience has a rollicking good time watching this "education of Elena and Reed" take place.  One wonders how two people so unevenly matched - there's a reference to "Steve Jobs and Stevie Nicks," a good description of Reed and Elena - ever got together in the first place.

Which is perhaps one of the reason this play didn't quite earn a standing ovation from the audience.  It's just ever so slightly tinged with the undesirable tincture of contrivance, such as a subplot involving Reed's daughter, the daughter Reed and Elena never had and...well, don't want to give away too much of the story. Suffice it to say there are a few details here that are a little "too cute" that make suspension of one's disbelief a trifle difficult, but all in all, "Shooting Star" is a thoroughly enjoyable 90-minute romp down the memory lane of two strangers who, like people you pass in the airport, you'll never see again.  

"Shooting Star" runs now through Feb. 20th at the Everyman Theatre, 1727 North Charles Street, with performances Wednesday through Sunday. For tickets call the Everyman Theatre box office at 410-752-2208 or online at

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From This Author Daniel Collins