The last time Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower was on Broadway was in 2018. Theatre Calgary has brought it to its stage to kick off 2024. Martin describes his play as a wild comedy with an element of surrealism, while the play is marketed as a rip-roaring comedy. While the cast works hard to try and make this production funny, it crashes and burns. Martin tries to examine the institution of marriage, but the message is basic and pedestrian. The audience can’t buy into the characters or the bond between the couple and the brevity of the production is a high point. Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower could use a dramaturg and major editing, as the storyline can’t stay the course. Quite simply, the skit goes on too long.
Meteor Shower, set in the 1990s, tells of married couple Norm (Nathan Schmidt) and Corky (Helen Knight) who are hosting Gerald (Braden Griffiths) and Laura (Bahareh Yaraghi) for drinks and to watch the meteor shower on display that night. Corky has never met Laura and Norm seems to know Gerald superficially. Before the guests arrive, Norm says something about repressing feelings, which is something to be noted, and as Corky and he discuss things, they have a process of holding hands and trying to acknowledge the other’s feelings. It feels robotic and rehearsed, but the audience goes with it. Gerald and Laura arrive and are hideously rude, belligerent, aggressive, and honestly, people you don’t want to be around. They are terrible and it makes no sense that Norm and Corky don’t just kick them out of their house. They do, eventually. But Norm gets hit by a meteor, dies, then survives and Corky sleeps with both Gerald and Laura when she believes he is dead. Martin wanted to put the most absurd things on stage and no one stopped him. Whatever popped up in his head for 20 years, was thrown into this play. When you’re ready to walk out, you still have 20 minutes to sit through.
The cast works to try and bring a genuine authenticity to their characters, but the level of lunacy is too high. Knight tries to bring whatever realism she can to Corky and Schmidt also makes tremendous effort to have Norm relatable, but this entire narrative is an abysmal failure. Griffiths is even more over the top for the entirety of the play, but his character is mostly one note, while Yaraghi tries to lean into her despicable character as best she can.
Beth Kates’s projection and lighting design beautifully illustrate the meteor shower in the night sky. Jessica Poirier-Chang’s costume design is a high point of the production, contrasting Gerald’s sunglasses, velvet suit jacket, and Norm’s simple jeans and shirt. Laura is styled in a sparkly pantsuit while Corky is in simple attire by comparison. Douglas Paraschuk’s set design uses Maxbell Theatre’s spinning stage, allowing the audience to see inside the house and outside on the deck, by rotating the stage.
Relationships are hard work and sometimes we have to fight our inner demons, which is the message behind this play. Believe me, it doesn’t say anything else.
Theatre Calgary’s Meteor Shower runs until February 11th. Tickets and more info are available online.
Photo: (l to r) Helen Knight, Nathan Schmidt, Bahareh Yaraghi, Braden Griffiths, in Meteor Shower. Credit: Trudie Lee