Meteor Shower on Broadway: A Review
The hype around Meteor Shower, which opened on Broadway on November 1, is downright frothy. They hauled in so much cash prior to opening that they broke a Booth Theatre record: with a figure hovering around $7.5 million, the show actually earned the highest advance in the house?s 104-year history.
Why all the fuss? The play is written by the one and only Steve Martin and stars Emmy Award winning actress and comedian Amy Schumer. The four-person cast is rounded out with Keegan Michael-Key and Tony Award winning and nominated actors Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos.
This should be the best night in theater. Thanks to Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, Broadway is the hottest street in the universe right now and Meteor Shower should be the shooting blaze streaking over it. Unfortunately, it had more in common with the farcical meteor that supposedly burned through each of the male characters. Even the meteor crash is confusing; it starts out funny, and then just seems weird, like the play itself.
I was glad I hadn?t read any reviews prior to taking my seat four rows back in the Booth Theater for opening night. I was all anticipation and joy.
Amy Schumer?! Steve Martin?! Keegan Michael-Key?!
My comedic heroes and idols had joined forces to create something so unique, so creative and offbeat, they would storm Broadway and push Lin-Manuel Miranda to the cheap seats at the next Tony Awards. As excited as I was on arrival, I was equally disturbed and confused on my exit.
Meteor Shower is like Steve Martin himself; you love him, you want him to be brilliant at all times, but sometimes he leaves you desperate for ?that wild and crazy guy? you know he can be. How can the man who penned L.A. Story?and Roxanne (though to be fair, the plot was not his idea) also leave us so despondent after watching movies like Mixed Nuts? Didn?t see it? Don?t bother. As I left the theater I wondered if the more well-known theater critics would agree with me that this show was a big nothing burger. It has great sets and some really funny jokes. But just as a pile of funky clothes do not an outfit make, nor do a well-crafted pile of jokes a play make.
Officially the play is described thus:
Set in Ojai, California, the comedy follows married couple Corky (Schumer) and Norm (Shamos – who only joined the production three weeks ago), who invite another couple?Laura (Benanti) and Gerald (Key) over for dinner. Soon, the two couples launch into ruthless Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?-esque psychological warfare?the fury of which is matched only by the space rocks falling above them.
There are some great jokes. Schumer?s character has a cannibalistic history, which shouldn?t be funny, but it is. But it also has nothing to do with the plot. Many of the jokes could have stood on their own without need for a fancy play. The sexual tension that Benanti brings to the stage is fabulous, and Schumer is surprisingly the demure one, and she plays it with aplomb. Yet the plot line is so meandering and odd that even their fabulous performances seem disjointed. Keegan Michael-Key seems to be playing himself; if you like him you?ll love him in this show, if he annoys you?. you get it.
The play starts to get fun when a meteor crashes to earth and burns a smoking hole through Norm, Amy Schumer?s husband. It?s a fantasy every woman has had, and with her recently incinerated husband safely folded away in the garage Schumer?s character does what we all wish we could do – she gets it on with Keegan Michael-Key. But just when you think the story has taken a turn for the better, Norm reappears with a smoking hole in his abdomen and some gnarly looking intestines flailing about. If my 14-year-old son had written the show, this would have been the same outcome. And to prove that Martin must have written this scene as a teen-aged boy, the character takes a drink only to have the liquid spew out of his meteor hole. And in case the audience didn?t get the Beavis and Butthead-style joke, the parlor trick was repeated not twice or three times, but four times in a row. We get it, it?s because there?s a hole in his belly.
Meteor Shower first opened in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater. To date the only reviews I can find are from that production. Why no reviews from New York? I can only assume that the play is such a cash cow that no one wants to tell the emperor that he?s in fact buck naked.
Charles McNulty, the theater critic for the?L.A. Times,?titled his review ?Steve Martin?s Meteor Shower Feels Like a Case of Hollywood Welfare?. I was relieved to find I wasn?t the only one to leave the theater feeling dizzy and confused. McNulty says, ?The comedy Martin started ages ago (technical term for these works, I believe, is ?trunk play?), has an air of juvenilia. The quizzical feeling I had leaving the theater after Sunday?s opening night performance at the Old Globe was similar to the reaction I often have after reading one of Martin?s strained humor pieces in the?New Yorker ? why isn?t this precious space going to a writer less known but more talented??
Would I suggest you spend your hard-earned cash on this hot mess? It breaks my heart to say no. As adorable as Amy Schumer is, you?ll leave feeling a little dirty having watched her in what will surely not be her most proud moment.
The show is technically in previews and the official opening night is set for November 29. We can only hope that there are some serious re-writes over the next few weeks.
The Jerry Zaks-helmed production is produced by Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, and John Johnson. It features sets by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Ann Roth, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Fitz Patton, and casting by Caparelliotis Casting.
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