All is fair in love and war. Comedian and playwright Steve Martin proves the point with his absurd and hilarious play, “Meteor Shower,” now playing at The Red Barn Theatre. It’s a satire, a comedy and a blatant jab at California narcissism. To paraphrase Shakespeare: there is truth in jest. The plot is simple: two couples get together to watch a meteor shower in Ojai, California, but the catch? Only one will emerge the victor.
Director Joy Hawkins doesn’t shy away from a big project on the small stage. Martin’s sense of humor and writing require great attention to detail, intertwining one-liners, subtle sarcasm, sexual innuendo, and Martin-esque physical comedy. It’s masterful like a rollercoaster, and once the play picks up speed, the twists and turns and unexpectedness are a crazy ride.
Meet Corky and Norm, the self-actualized, liberal elite couple who wear their insecurities like Christmas ugly sweaters — cluelessly. They are humorless, repressed and achingly hard to stand as they demonstrate the starry neediness of West Coasters. Elena Devers delivers Corky, the nuanced housewife, with sheer buoyancy, keeping the play afloat in a stratosphere beyond our delightful comprehension. She serves up “pre-wine” before the guests arrive, claiming it doesn’t count, and has dabbled in “cannibalism,” setting the play’s absurdity level pretty high.
Norm, (a play on the word normal) is a perfect fit for Dave Bootle, whose face alone delivers his subtly and oddly lovable character. He does a lot of “acknowledging and appreciating” of his wife and is about as exciting as milquetoast until … (wait, no spoilers!). After that, he is anything but normal.
In come Gerald and Laura, the manipulative guests from hell, bent on breaking the quaint suburban bubble. They are smooth-talking, aggressive con artists going in for “total collapse” of Corky and Norm’s marriage. Michael Castellano takes on Gerald with all the smarminess of an eel let loose on land, and Susannah Wells oozes Laura’s sexuality with hip thrusting delight, while delivering jabs like a boxer, “Exactly what we need, a little nothing in the country,” she offers when talking about Corky and Norm’s home.
However, the play doesn’t end with the couples set in their roles. Martin flips the timeline and scenes are replayed over with a “what if” mentality. And ultimately the complacent Corky and Norm become an unexpected match for Gerald and Laura. While the play may delve into the subconscious of marriage, it doesn’t go too deep and remains a farce from beginning to end. Like the 50 to 60 meteors during the show, that’s about how many jokes are delivered in the 80 minutes. It’s fast, a little messy and ultimately funny. Don’t miss it.