Theater review by Adam Feldman
The bright spots in Steve Martin's Meteor Shower are flashy. After a wobbly foray into musical theater last year, Martin returns here to the absurdist humor that marked his ascent to the comic pantheon, injecting spiked-punch lines into a familiar scenario about two couples doing battle over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Corky (Amy Schumer) and Norm (Jeremy Shamos), married for 16 years, take great pains to be mindful of each other's feelings; Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) and Laura (Laura Benanti) are mysterious, predatory guests at their comfy home in Ojai, California, in 1993. The ostensible reason for their visit is the titular cosmic light show, but their real agenda is a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?–ish game of Get the Hosts. (There's an Albee-esque drink cart at the ready stage left.)
Using various strategies of disruption, from overt hostility and seduction to subtler undermining, the home invaders take aim at the tenuous balance that Corky and Norm have achieved. Martin’s writing veers in and out of realism—scenes sometimes stop, restart and go in different directions—which lets the playwright throw in some gutsy twists and an unexpectedly dark backstory for Corky. Directed by Jerry Zaks (Hello, Dolly!), the show zigzags across lanes with relentless speed, zipping by in under 75 minutes, with help from an expert cast. Schumer, in a confident stage debut, is very funny as our conventional but malleable heroine (who claims to suffer from “exploding head syndrome”), and nobody does nice-guy-finally-losing-it quite like Shamos; while Key sometimes seems a bit trapped in Gerald's booming swagger, the marvelous Benanti is hilarious throughout as his lusciously vague, mercurial companion. Yet despite a somewhat strained attempt to explain itself at the end, Meteor Shower never quite coalesces into a convincing whole. Its entertaining moments blaze, then disappear into an empty sky.
Booth Theatre (Broadway). By Steve Martin. Directed by Jerry Zaks. With Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Laura Benanti, Jeremy Shamos. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission. Through Jan 21.