- Connecticut Columnist
On September 28th, Long Wharf Theatre will launch its 2016-2017 season with “Meteor Shower,” a brand new play by Steve Martin (which is co-produced with the Old Globe). Directed by Gordon Edelstein, Artistic Director of Long Wharf, “Meteor Shower” is a comedy about two couples whose dinner party takes a turn for the surreal while they watch the titular astronomic event. Starring in the show are Arden Myrin, Patrick Breen, Tony-nominee Craig Bierko and Sophina Brown.
To learn more about this world premiere play, I spoke to Sophina Brown on the telephone about how the rehearsal process is going (after our conversation, she was on her way to the first day of tech), what attracted her to “Meteor Shower” and what it’s like working with Steve Martin. Brown, who is making her Long Wharf debut, has a long resume of television roles including “NUMB3RS,” “Shark,” “The Good Wife” and the upcoming “Cruel Intentions.” She has also been seen on Broadway in “The Lion King” and regionally with shows like “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Good People.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How are rehearsals going so far?
Rehearsals have been going great! It's definitely a truncated rehearsal process. So it was kind of like being shot out of a cannon. There was a little bit of panic initially when we were like, "Oh my god, we only have two and a half a weeks of rehearsals?” It's not a linear play and there are elements that, if you overthink them, can trip you up a little bit. But once we figured out the pocket and got into the groove of what we were doing, things fell into place beautifully.
- Is this your first time at Long Wharf and in New Haven?
It is! You know, I've always heard about Long Wharf and the wonderful productions they've done and I think out of all the LORT [League of Resident Theatres] theaters in the country, they’ve taken the most shows to New York. So, they definitely set a precedent, that's for sure. I've been having a great time. It's a lovely, lovely place to work. I haven't been able to really explore New Haven yet because of the rehearsal schedule and then, on my days off I had to go into New York City to throw a wedding shower for my best friend. But I’m looking forward to doing just that.
What attracted you to "Meteor Shower"?
The biggest draw initially was Steve Martin. He is iconic. He does so much. He's so talented, so smart, so funny. I knew anything that he wrote was going to not only be challenging and humorous but it was also going to be deeply profound and that's exactly what this play is. I think it strikes such a great balance because, when I first read it and I would imagine as an audience member, you go on this wonderful journey that's just absolutely hilarious but then, when all the laughs are done, you're left with these golden nuggets of wisdom that you think about for days and days after. It's made me actually think about marriage a bit differently and think about even my humanity in a different way.
Has Steve Martin been involved in this process?
Yeah, he's been in the room. He's been in rehearsals. It's just wonderful when he's there because, first of all, being able to do a play where the playwright is sitting right there next to the director is something I've never experienced before. So that in and of itself is a joy and treat. He's not an overbearing person. He doesn't dominate the room in any way. He really lets Gordon [Edelstein] be the director and run the rehearsal. But when he does have something to say, it's highly impactful and we get so much out of it. This is his baby and he really helps give us a way in when we're stuck. Just simple things that he says really crack things wide open. This is also the first time that I’ve actually gotten to help originate a piece, which is a completely different ballgame. It's a completely different feel to come up and create things in the room and have Steve Martin writing a line for you based on something you did. That is huge to me. It's been very meaningful in that way to be part of that creative process.
What is it like working with and getting to know this cast?
It's been wonderful. I always say that it's a happy surprise when you not only have a great professional relationship with people but you end up walking away with a new friend. And I feel like that's what happening. Arden [Myrin] and myself are both from LA and, while I’ve only known her for three weeks, I know for sure we'll definitely keep our relationship going because we have that instant chemistry. What's been really great for me, not having as much of a comedy background as the other three, is being able to learn a lot by watching their process and watching how they can make something funny. It's challenged me and made me elevate my craft in that way because it's given me a new perspective. Arden is a stand-up comedian; Craig Bierko is just insanely funny in general and Patrick [Breen] is as well. They're all really good actors to boot. So it's been wonderful being able to collaborate with them and being able to sit back and watch their process. It's promoted growth in me.
Is there an adjustment for you going from on-camera acting back to stage work?
That's a good question. There is always an adjustment. There's a physicality to this play that's been a challenge for me. I have to really use my entire body as an instrument. Whereas when I'm doing on-camera stuff, a lot of things are conveyed through eyes and very economical movements. One of the things I had to realize is that, because this is an absurdist comedy, I was kind of going more towards naturalistic and realistic [styles]. Even though you always want things to be truthful, there's a heightened quality to this play that I really had to accept and step into.
What are you most looking forward to over the run of the show?
I'm really looking forward to, first of all, having an audience. That's always the missing element at this point. We're just ready to get in front of an audience and to really share what we've done. The other thing I’m looking forward to is something that I've only dreamt about and didn't even know it was a model at Long Wharf, which is doing talk-backs after every single show and I'm going to try to make as many as I possibly can. I think that it's so important to open up after a performance and have a dialogue with the community. Because ultimately that's what theater is all about. Art in all forms is about is service to the community.
How would you pitch "Meteor Shower" to a reader who doesn't know anything about it?
There are so many surprises in "Meteor Shower" that it's one of those things where I don't want to say too much. What I will say is that it is an unpredictable evening of non-stop laughs. It is so funny and so witty that I would defy anyone to come and not enjoy this show. It's a roller coaster ride form beginning to end. I don't want to give away too much of the plot. You just have to come and see it!