March 14, 2020 | Jessica McFarland
In a nice change of pace from it’s more youth-oriented programming, Pit and Balcony has staged 2016’s Meteor Shower, a more mature four-person comedy by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin). Of course, with the current Coronavirus fears running rampant, Pit was left with a much smaller audience than usual opening night. Still, the show must go on (although next weekend’s performances are cancelled), and I can safely say I haven’t heard such a small audience so engaged with a comedy in a long time.
It’s 1993 and an exceptionally big meteor shower will be visible from Earth. Norm (Kale Schafer) and wife Corky (Colleen Cartwright) are looking for some new couple-friends, and have invited Gerald (Jonah Conner) and Laura (Trashan Donald) to their home. The guests are glamourous and different from their usual crowd, and Norm and Corky banter and “pre-wine” their jitters away in the first scene. They are a loving couple - they’ve worked hard at it, reading books and attending counseling where they’ve picked up very proper speech to work through disagreements. “When I repress something, I push it way down and kick dirt over it,” Norm notes (pay attention to that). Once Gerald and Laura arrive, all hell breaks loose literally and figuratively. The strangers are impulsive, passionate, sexy, and weird - everything Corky and Norm aren’t. As the meteors fall hard and fast, the couples begin to reveal more about their true natures, and we learn that everything may not be as it seems. For those familiar with Martin’s stage work, we have the expected existential monologues and absurd, off-the-wall humor. Martin loves to surprise, and this show certainly delivers the extraordinary. At under 80 minutes, it’s a quick and funny romp, and director Dr. Jeff List tackles it with zest.
This show really relies on the strength of its cast, and all four do a terrific job keeping the comedy rolling. Conner doesn’t hit a false step, channeling an early Jim Carrey in both his lithe physicality as well as his superb timing. As an actor he clearly has a good grasp on the humor of this show, and finds joy in the unexpected whether in delivery or movements. Also excellent is Schafer as “normal man” Norman; he has that rare everyday quality that allows him to take straight man roles without making them boring, and his timing is excellent. He makes his character development seem natural, and in a situation as insane as this that’s no easy feat! Cartwright is extremely relatable as Corky (in a role originated by Amy Schumer, she’s a great fit). She can make the audience erupt with just a reaction. Donald oozes sensuality and cattiness as Laura, in a role that you love to hate.
Dr. List keeps the show tight, and it is well staged with no sightline issues and a few pleasant surprises from tech and actors. There were some times I wished for more of a frantic energy as the evening began to spiral out of control - although the pacing was good it could have been more dynamic, with the highs and lows experienced by Corky and Norm translating more to the audience. The blocking was occasionally a bit confusing - without giving spoilers this show does involve some alternate timelines of the same evening, and List chose to have the entire scenes staged differently from each other, even with identical dialogue. While this was initially a bit disorienting, we got the gist a few moments in. Overall the show is very funny, and these little issues did not detract from the experience.
The set was a collaboration by Mike Wisniewski, Ken Duby, Mary Whalen Swift, and Robin Noah - it was functional and the stained glass feature was lovely to look at; I wished that decoration could have been a little more personal, since it was referenced so frequently. Lighting design by Bailey Banks was well done, and even with the quick cues there were no delays or mix-ups thanks to Stage Manager Amy Spadafore. Costumes by Cassidy Palmateer are fitted and flattering, and coordinated to look nice together without being too matchy-matchy. Sound by L’Oreal Hartwell was excellent.
For a content warning, this show does contain strong profanity and simulated drug use (comedic) as well as some crude sexual humor. If that doesn’t bother you, then this is a really great offering by Pit. It’s a shame the timing had to coincide with the Coronavirus outbreak. If you are comfortable leaving the house, Pit and Balcony is honoring all pre-purchased tickets and is accommodating special seating; please consider catching “Meteor Shower” Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. With a dynamite cast, great pacing, and a weird, funny script, this one’s a hit!