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Review By T.J. Besler
“If you don’t deal with your subconscious, it will deal with you.” These words, uttered by Corky are at the heart of “Meteor Shower,” Steve Martin’s (yes, THAT Steve Martin) 2016 play, which originally premiered on Broadway in 2017, and is now set to run on the Great Rivers Players’ stage from April 29-May 7. The comedy of Martin is not an easy task for any theatre to take on, let alone a small-town community theatre operating on a limited budget and resources. His play is full of the surrealism and absurdism we have all come to expect from him, while also being chock full of one-liners, sight gags, and ultimately, heart in a way that even the most experienced of actors could find challenging. But through the direction of the very capable Sue Scott, Chantel Hawkins as Corky, as well as her costars, Ben Moser as Norm, Tim Snyder as Gerald, and Anne Pietscher as Laura managed to keep the audience engaged throughout.
The “plot” of “Meteor Shower” is difficult to describe without giving away surprises that make the play so exciting. At its core it is the story of a seemingly dull, normal married couple, Corky and Norm, (Hawkins and Moser) pitted against the more devious duo of Gerald and Laura (Snyder and Pietscher) who may be more than they appear. Norm and Corky, owners of a home in Ojai, California have invited Gerald and Laura over for some wine and astronomy. Sparks fly. As well as asteroids, and along the way, many, many jokes. From the onset, it becomes quite apparent that Gerald and Laura are not there to make a good impression, but instead to wreak havoc in Corky and Norm’s lives. Tensions rise. Hilarity ensues. Then the play goes back in time (which it does several times throughout) autocorrects and the scenario repeats growing increasingly fraught each time until the roles reverse, the shoes are on the other feet, and the predators become the prey. While never losing sight of Martin’s very unique brand of comedy.
A play such as this lives or dies by its casting, and in Hawkins, Moser, Snyder, and Pietscher, Scott has found a winning combination. All four are successful in the way they navigate the many levels of their characters – whether the victim of an awkward situation or the perpetrator of it they remain fully committed to their characters throughout. All four have a cumulative chemistry among them that keeps the story believable even as it continues to hurtle toward extreme absurdity. The quartet also have an impressive sense of comedic timing and are utterly charming to watch as they become more and more entangled with one another. With adult language, sexual innuendo, and references to drugs it could be easy for the actors to appear as uncomfortable as we are meant to be at times, but every last one of them throw themselves into the material with so much abandon that we are with them the entire way until they take their final bow.
Beyond the talented cast, the other ingredients, such as lighting, props, sound, costumes, and the set transport you into a setting that couldn’t possibly be anywhere but California combined with the surreal world Martin has created. The way Scott, with the help of Jim Lewiston and Victor Mickunas, has managed to recreate the effect of a meteor shower with the combination of white and green lights that expand all the way across the ceiling is extremely effective. There is a bait and switch moment with the use of lights and sound that pulls your attention in one direction while managing a sleight of hand trick with the other. Plus, one particular visual effect, involving an iPad, an iPhone, and whole lot of creativity was so successful that it managed to be both a hilarious sight gag and a believable special effect. Add to that the simple but carefully crafted costumes and set and you have a show in which every aspect works in tandem to create a world you want to enter and are sad to have to leave, which with a run time of about 90 minutes (including intermission), comes a lot sooner than desired.
Scott, her cast, and crew should all be very proud of the obvious hard work put into this show. Theatre, at its best, not only entertains, but also challenges and creates a conversation. Any theatre should be applauded for taking on a show such as “Meteor Shower.” It’s not the typical fare you may expect at Great Rivers Players, but for anyone looking for a fun night out of quality, well written, well directed, and well-acted entertainment, be sure to check it out.
“Meteor Shower” is rated PG-17 for adult situations and language. Also, be aware that for anyone with sensitivities, this production does use strobe lights.
“Meteor Shower” has two more performance- Friday, May 6 at 7:30 and Saturday, May 7, at 2:00pm. Call 319-795-5355 for ticket information.
T.J. Besler is a regional professional actor who will be appearing as LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast”, at Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, IL. Full disclosure: Besler is also the son-in-law of Sue Scott, the director of “Meteor Shower”