Starry, Starry Night

Meteor Shower, by Steve Martin,

Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT


Steve Martin is a genius.

Martin’s stand-up comedy, as daring and edgy as it has been throughout the decades, has never been unkind, or cynical. He never shakes a finger at his audience, preferring to treat us with respect. Unlike many comics, he figures he can be honest and funny without putting us in an uncomfortable position. This doesn’t mean he provides us with  watered down content, it just means he gives us intelligent funny without making us squirm.

If his stand-up was all he gave us over the years, that would be plenty. If he had only provided us with unforgettable characters in films like, The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and Pennies From Heaven, we would be grateful for his contribution.  If he had simply been a terrific banjo player, screenwriter, staff writer, essayist, and author, that would be impressive enough. But lucky for us, he decided to also write plays.

I call him a genius, not simply because he has done so many things, but because he has done all those things, WELL. Really well. He earned his first Emmy for his writing on The Smothers Brothers Show in the late 60s. He won his five Grammy awards for comedy AND Bluegrass music, and he received an honorary Oscar in 2013. His musical, Bright Star, which he co-wrote with Edie Brickell, garnered three Tony nominations just last season.

His play,  Picasso at the Lapin Angile, which puts Picasso, Elvis, and Einstein in a quaint Paris bistro was very well received last season at The Long Wharf, and now we are treated to the time bending, Meteor Shower. Martin was present throughout the rehearsal process for both of these plays.  How lucky are we here in New Haven to be close to a theatre that is close to him?

On an evening when a Meteor Shower is expected, a couple arrives at the Southern California home of another couple, who punctuate their relationship with encouraging, pat phrases learned from self-help books and hours of marriage counseling. The phrases are recited while they hold hands, and look directly into each other’s eyes.  The visiting couple arrive with an eighty dollar bottle of wine and three eggplants wrapped in a bow.  The lives of the couples are poked and prodded by celestial activity, and when one meteor,  showers into their backyard, time and space become hilariously altered. Do-overs are possible, eighty dollar bottles of wine are reduced to a four buck bottle of swill, and an odd number of eggplants doesn’t seem like a silly gift, after all.

This is a wonderful cast. Patrick Breen (Galaxy Quest, Show me a Hero) is delightful in his deadpan. Arden Myrin’s seemingly helium-induced voice is charming as the quirky Corky. The visiting couple is played by Sophina Brown and Josh Samberg.  I have been enjoying Samberg for the past two seasons in The Affair on Showtime. His arrogance and bravado in the first act is replaced with uncertainty and lack of confidence in the second, and he is a joy to watch.

The Long Wharf season, once again promises to be stellar.  This kicked it off beautifully.

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