Meteor Shower

Pit & Balcony Stages the Regional Premier of Steve Martin’s Existential Comedy

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 892   By: Robert E Martin

20th February, 2020     0

Steve Martin is - in many ways - the comedic Wittgenstein of our time. Considered to be perhaps the greatest (if not controversial) 20th Century philosopher, Wittgenstein turned his thought upon topics as diverse as logic & language, ethics & religion, and aesthetics & culture; and in many ways, Martin has proven over the decades to be far more than a comedian with his explications between sense & nonsense.

Throughout his career, Martin has challenged and shaped his comedic values around the convolutions of philosophy and logic, which often gets inverted.  Since exploding upon the public consciousness in the mid-1970s with his ‘Wild & Crazy Guy’ routine, Martin has proven himself a formidable and funny musician with his Blue Grass Band, written & directed films such as L.A. Story, penned incredible novels such as An Object of Beauty, while also finding the time to scrip numerous play.

And thanks to the intrepid and courageous creative team at Pit & Balcony Community Theatre, all of us throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region will have an opportunity to catch the Regional Premiere of Martin’s newest play, Meteor Shower, which will debut on the weekend of March 13-15th and continue with performances the following week from March 20-22nd.

Written by Martin in 2016, Meteor Shower is a comedy set in 1993 in Ojai, California. It premiered on Broadway in 2017, where Amy Schumer received the production’s sole Tony Award nomination. Based upon the once-in-a-lifetime Perseus Meteor Shower that happened back in 1993, the narrative of the play follows the characters of Corky and her husband Norm, who invite another couple named Gerald and Laura over for dinner. Over the course of the evening, Gerald and Laura become increasingly aggressive and belligerent - indeed, one critic reviewing the opening of the play described it as a plunge into the absurd, likening it to a ‘Saturday Night Live parody of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’

According to Director Jeff List, the mystical and emotional mayhem of Meteor Shower fits in well within the lexicon of Steve Martin’s work. “I think this play makes you question why people are doing the things they are doing, which fits in perfectly with the nature of his comedy. There are some very bizarre moments, which in turn gets the audience asking: Why is this happening? Why is this here?  And of course, it’s up to the audience to decide upon an answer to these questions.”

“I would categorize it more as an existential comedy,” he continues, “and believe it will get people asking questions such as ‘Who are we?’ What is the nature of our true selves?’ 

Although reluctant to give away too much of the plot, List says what he finds interesting is that a lot of the strange things that start to happen in the play are based upon reality, which makes it interesting for him as a Director. “When this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event occurred back in 1993, anywhere from 200 to 300 meteors an hour were passing by the earth at one point; so many of the ideas presented in this play come from some of these reality-based news stories that emerged at the time.”

Given that Meteor Shower is the regional premier of a work generated by a well-known comedian, Jeff says it was a difficult production to cast, but the people that came through the auditions were all naturals for their respective roles, consisting of Colleen Cartwright in the role of Corky; Kale Schafer as Norm; Jonah Conner in the role of Gerald; and Trashan Donald as his wife Laura.

Colleen Cartwright had a wonderful audition,” notes List, “and pretty clearly understand the role of someone who’s a little repressed and wants to be perfect, which she demonstrated quite quickly during her audition. She gets the idea that Corky, with all her quirks, still has this profound desire to be normal, even though she doesn’t understand what it even means to be normal.”

Corky’s husband Norm is performed by Kale Shafer, who is reminiscent of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and represents the ‘average’ in terms of commonality when it comes to being hard-working, keeping one’s nose clean, yet never getting ahead.

Trashan Donald is very self-aware and plays the role of Laura, a character confident of who she is,” notes List. “She is very ‘out there’ whereas the character of Gerald is a bit of a pontificator, who likes to spout off and sound important during topics of conversation; and is very confident as well.  One thing we learn early into the play is how Corky & Norm look up to Gerald & Laura and aspire to be a little more like them; but we also learn that Gerald & Laura have ulterior motives for coming to the party.”

“Corky and Norm are hosting this event and they don’t really know Gerald and Laura that well, but are social climbers wo want to start meeting new people. Norm tries to be the best husband he can be and is very supportive and both have worked on their marriage quite a bit.  Corky is what one would call a ‘firm believer’, and Norm believes whatever Corky does for efficacy’s sake.”

Given its innate structure, Jeff says the most challenging component is the fact “there’s a lot of absurdity in the play. One of the things it does is go back in time and recreate events; and some scenes are playout three times in a trio of different ways. The challenge is to render each scene differently and still have it make sense.”

“This isn’t a linear play, but is a little bit like ‘Ground Hog Day’ in terms of jumping back and forth in time and repeating itself, depending upon the circumstances,” he continues. “We’re trying to get everything right. Basically, we end up where we started, really; but all the characters are changed and different at the end.”

“The best thing about this cast is they are experimenting all the time,” adds Jeff. “I don’t need to push them to try new things. One thing we talked about is to avoid ‘playing’ the jokes. Comedy is always based on the delivery and how believable you are and how much the character believes in that moment, no matter how ridiculous the thing is that you are doing - you have to believe it’s the right thing to do; and the actors are doing a great job with that - they have a lot of natural talent.”

When asked to summarize the appeal of Meteor Shower, Jeff concludes by noting how “Steve Martin is the appeal, but knowing his more bizarre comedy, it will have audiences questioning the idea of true self and that type of thing. In addition to laughing, there is something deeper involved with this play - it isn’t all superficial slapstick.  In the end there are poignant moments leading to the notion that maybe neurotic is normal; and maybe people striving to be normal, or being pushed to the center of events, is not normal.”

“I hope people come for the Meteor Shower and stay for the laughter.”

Pit & Balcony’s Regional Premier of Steve Martin’s ‘Meteor Shower’ will run from March 13-15 & 20-22. Friday & Saturday performances are at 7:30 PM and Sunday matinees are at 3:00 PM.   Tickets are available by phoning 989.754-6587 or visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

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