In the program booklet for the new Steve Martin comedy, Meteor Shower, playing at Long Wharf through October 23rd, Director Gordon Edelstein ponders: “How much of what we think about and desire do we repress?” The question provides the audience with just enough of a clue in understanding this very funny and amusing production.
Corky (Arden Myrin) and Norm (Patrick Breen) are a content, married couple, probably in their late 30’s, living in the hills outside Los Angeles. They are readying themselves to entertain a couple Norm has just met. When they arrive, Gerald (Josh Stamberg) and Laura (Sophina Brown) come across as bold, brash, and inappropriate. But are these two guests inconsiderate and imprudent strangers or a facet of Corky and Norm’s repressed life? This is the scenario that playwright Steve Martin has conjured up as he explores this line of thought in terms of sex, marriage and relationships from two different angles in Acts I and II.
Martin utilizes the element of time – forward and backward – to show different sides of a conversation or how various scenes could be reworked. In fact, Michael Yeargan’s compact and sleek set design amplifies the notion of time with a rotating stage. The production can sometimes be slightly hard to follow, with all the back and forth and shifts in style, but that is a minor lament. Steve Martin, who has been a comedy writer since the late 1960’s with television’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, knows how to craft comedic moments and there are many in Meteor Shower. His lampooning of couple’s counseling methodology and a cannibalization tale are irreverent and hilarious. He has also created four fully developed, outlandish characters that do an outstanding job in breathing life into his whimsical and dizzying writing.
The first-rate cast functions seamlessly together. They are seasoned professionals with a no-holds barred attitude in their portrayals. Ardin Myrin, as Corky, gives the most satisfying comedic performance, whether it’s the simple recitation of some unvarnished dialogue, her deadpan delivery, or the overt physicality of her performance. Patrick Breen’s Norm comes across as humdrum and like your friendly next door neighbor. However, his matter-of-fact delivery and perplexed looks fuel the interplay between all the characters. Josh Stamberg, as Gerald, is loud, foul-mouthed, and reckless. He perfectly personifies the polar opposite of the more staid, phlegmatic Norm. Sophina Brown, as Laura, is sexy and seductive and knows it. She is more understated then the rest of the actors, but beautifully aligns with her more audacious partner-in-crime.
Gordon Edelstein, who has helmed a number of Steve Martin’s forays into the theater, shows a deft comic touch in handling the material. He keeps the pacing agile and quick and nimbly orchestrates scene changes, especially those that redirect the focus in a non-linear fashion. Edelstein skillfully infuses each performer with their own idiosyncratic gestures and vocal intonations that enriches the characterizations. The director also does a superb job handling the demands of Act II, which, in a sense, is like a new play.
Meteor Shower, an absurdist and entertaining piece of theater at Long Wharf through October 23rd.