By Nimra Amir, February 2 2024—
Since it was last seen on Broadway in 2018, Meteor Shower has taken up new life with its recent Calgary premiere on Jan. 26 at Theatre Calgary. The play is now directed by Lezlie Wade — who had seen Meteor Shower when it had first premiered on Broadway in 2017 and had promised to recreate the absurdist, fast-paced comedy on modern marriage written by Hollywood comedy legend Steve Martin for Calgary audiences. And boy, did she deliver on her promise.
Meteor Shower is set in Ojai, California and follows Norm (Nathan Schmidt) and his wife, Corky (Helen Knight) as they have over their guests Gerald (Braden Griffiths) and his wife, Laura (Bahareh Yaraaghi) to observe a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower. But just as their evening begins, the couple starts to question not only their marriage but also their reality. Yet they are not alone as the audience, with the couple, try to follow the story that has absurdist roots with the use of nonlinear structure, as seen through temporal shifts that replay scenes that become new again with added context or alternative outcomes. While this style may be jarring at first, it is easy to settle into with Norm and Corky or Gerald and Laura helping the audience through the story with jokes that reflect each relationship, which remains more grounded in the reality the audience lives in.
“There are a lot of symbolic things happening. But symbolic things always need to begin as real — real characters, real people, saying real things — and then you can say, oh, that’s also a symbolic representation of something else,” says Wade.
Norm and Corky or Gerald and Laura do feel like real people saying real things. We get the sense that Norm and Corky have been together for quite some time with the certain comfortableness that their relationship holds and while they seem stable, they are upended by the recently coupled Gerald and Laura who share the newfound excitement of the honeymoon phase. It is as the meteor shower increases, with the set seamlessly transitioning between their picturesque living space to the open backyard, that we get the sense that these relationships might not be as simple as they seem.
Meteor Shower gives the audience a unique viewing experience that showcases just how vulnerable even the strongest relationships might be, and how this is exactly what our relationships need as it is when we are vulnerable, that we are real. Of course, there is a certain balance that needs to be achieved when people come together but to aim for perfection is exactly what leads to how repressed Norm and Corky have become in their marriage — especially when compared to Gerald and Laura. All it takes is some grand cosmic event for both parties to fully unite in an embrace that while they might not be perfect, they are together despite it all.
Eventually, as is pointed out by Martin and as Wade says, the meteor showers are “coming for us all, so it’s best to acknowledge its existence and stand prepared.”
In this way Meteor Shower is a gentle reminder of the inevitability of cosmic disruptions in our lives that can appear to be daunting, lightly delivered through the charismatic cast so that the audience can laugh throughout the entirety of the show in face of such a reminder.
Meteor Shower runs until Feb. 11. To buy tickets, visit the Theatre Calgary website.