Review: 'Meteor Shower' at the Long Wharf Theater

Tara Kennedy

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critic's Circle

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”  - Albert Einstein

“I don’t know what’s been going on, but I’m just gonna go with it.” – Norm, “Meteor Shower”

NEW HAVEN CT - We’ve all be there, right? That first time you invite that guy and his wife over to your house for drinks. You don’t know him too well, you’ve played tennis with him a couple of times, and he seems nice. Why not have them over? Besides, he seems really excited about being able to see the meteor shower and since we live in the part of California where the sky is clear, we’d be able to really see something…
Okay, so, maybe not that last part.

No one can fathom the imagination of Steve Martin, and it is beyond my understanding how “Meteor Shower” - this brilliant absurdity of a play - sprung from Martin’s head. It started as a work commenting on the new-age pop psychology craze of the early 1990s. The man only needs a Tony and he’s got E(mmy)G(rammy)O(scar)T(ony); that’s all the proof I need of his genius. 

Oh, and he also plays the banjo.

I don’t want to give away much of the plot here otherwise I’d spoil the fun (and even if I did, it probably wouldn’t make any sense anyway). Norm (Patrick Breen) and Corky (Arden Myrin) are a stereotypical Southern California couple. They strive to be perfect. They believe men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Norm is kind of your average guy. Corky is sweet and bright, and a little dingy. I feel like they’d say, “Gosh, darn it!” a lot in an attempt to be better people. But they are human: sometimes they drink a little too much white wine. 

Gerald (Josh Stamberg) and Laura (Sophina Brown) are the antithesis of Norm and Corky. They’re crude, lewd, and blunt. They are the Seven Deadly Sins on parade. They are even a physical contrast to the other couple: dark and swarthy versus light and airy. At some point, we get the sense that Gerald and Laura’s over-the-top behavior is part of a bigger plan. But what IS that plan? This is where the plot trajectories start to intersect and come back around again to the front and start over. Even the stage rotates in a circle in case we aren’t spun around enough.  

The actors are brilliant comedic actors and honestly, I was jealous of these actors because they seemed to be having a great time. I adored Myrin’s awkwardly delightful Corky; her physical gawkiness and facial expressions show her background in standup comedy. Breen exemplifies control and normalcy as Norm, so when it’s his turn to go off the rails, it is uproariously funny. There is one moment that he has a monologue where I had to applaud after he was done because it was a magnificent tirade.

Stamberg’s Gerald is the embodiment of Patrick Warburton (known for playing the Tick, Joe from “Family Guy,” and that guy in the National Rental Car commercials): he is egoistical, big as life, and seems to suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome with his outrageous outbursts. Everything he says and does becomes more contemptable as the show goes on, and it is hilarious.  Brown’s Laura is sleek, sensual, and sexy. She almost has to play it straight to counterbalance the explosiveness of her partner and she works it like a charm. Her theme song is hysterical (you’ll see what I mean). 

The set design by Michael Yeargan is beautiful. With clean lines, reminiscent of the late 1960s, it even boasts a painted backdrop echoing the linear rectangles of Rothko. It foreshadows the tensions to come.  And the audience will wonder forever how the chaise lounge ended up that way without anyone seeing it happen. Sound design by John Gromada was perfectly eerie and outer spacey; the music choices during intermission kept me giggling.     

Honestly, this show is a wild ride: scenes start, stop, and then start over again, and things are not the same. Somehow knowledge is gained without action happening. Or maybe it did? In a talkback afterwards, when the moderator asked what we thought the play was about, I blurted out that I thought it was a metaphysical phenomenon messing with the time/space continuum, which is why scenes were starting over and changing, and nothing seemed as it was (OK, I wasn’t that eloquent. I may or may not have used the term “space stuff”). Others felt that it was about the imbalance of the universe, exploration of the dark sides of self as in psychotherapy, or the specter of “what might be coming” in a relationship.  

Ultimately, to me, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that I was fully engaged and laughing my head off, completely buying whatever preposterousness was being dished out on the stage. All I know is that it works, and we can thank Steve Martin for another wild and crazy ride.

Photo: Arden Myrin and Patrick Breen in of “Meteor Shower.” T. Charles Erikson photo