I distinctly remember Steve Martin’s being funny. And smart. When was that?
Meteor Shower, his 2017 comedy at the Walnut Independence Studio, is neither funny nor clever, despite four excellent actors trying their damnedest under Debi Marcucci’s direction.
Filled with lame dirty jokes and every cliche of marital humor, the set up—and it’s very much a set up—is this: Norm (Greg Wood) and Corky (Susan Riley Stevens) are a dowdy middle-aged couple expecting company. (That Wood and Stevens are married in real life adds some piquancy to the proceedings.) The strains in their relationship are signaled by little forgiveness rituals right out of of the worst sort of self-help books and can-this-marriage-be-saved therapy.
Their guests duly arrive: Gerald (Jake Blouch) and Laura (Jessica Bedford) are a younger couple of extreme crassness. They intimidate Norm and Corky with their hypersexuality and awful clothes and $80 bottles of wine. Ostensibly, they’ve come to watch the meteor shower scheduled that night.
Then the play starts over again, furthering the narrative slightly but not getting much of anywhere. And then it starts over again: ditto. And again: ditto. Finally, three-quarters of the way through, Norm and Corky receive a phone call warning them about their destructive guests. And, finally, the worm turns and Norm and Corky exact their revenge and save their marriage. And that final scene almost saves the show.
Along the way the promised meteors make their appearance involving some quirky stagecraft (designed by Roman Tatarowicz). The playing area is the basic ping-pong arrangement: the living room onstage is at one end of the theater while the chaise lounges outside are at the other end. A strip of astroturf separates the two playing spaces as well as the halves of the audience; we were all afflicted with crick in the neck from peering first one way and then the other. Awkward pretty much covers the whole enterprise.
[Independence Studio at Walnut Street Theate, 9th & Walnut Streets] September 10–October 27, 2019; walnutstreettheatre.org