In the world of comedy, there are few true originals. This is particularly true with Broadway comedy. The Great White Way has always embraced roustabout farces and repurposed stand-up routines — there are a half a dozen of them running right now, one mostly like the next.
But every once in a while, a writer comes along like a shot out of left field — a playwright with a singular ability to take the mundane and, using a sharp wit and hilarious perspective, elevate it in unexpected ways that make you laugh out loud simply because you really didn’t see it coming. In fact, you couldn’t even imagine it.
So it is with Steve Martin, who in recent years has turned his absurdist, off-the-wall comedy mind to crafting exquisite, intellectual comedic gems for the stage.
His latest Broadway hit, “Meteor Shower,” makes its South Florida debut on Tuesday, March 26, at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West.
Starring Dave Bootle, Michael Castellano, Elena Devers and Susannah Wells, and directed by Joy Hawkins, “Meteor Shower” will run through Saturday, April 20. The reduced-price preview on Monday, March 25, and the opening night performance are at 8 p.m.; all other performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
The play — true to Martin’s oeuvre — is conceptual comedy. The funny action and dialogue are attached more to the theme he’s exploring than to the characters he uses to explore it.
And as The New York Times said, “Mr. Martin is peerless at crafting tiny wit bombs,” which he uses perfectly and liberally throughout the play.
The story revolves around two couples — Norm and Corky, and Gerald and Laura.
Norm and Corky have been married for 19 years, and most of that time has been spent working on their relationship with the help of magazines, books and a lot of psychobabble (the play takes place in the ’90s, after all). Any conflict between them is immediately addressed with trite rituals: “I understand you probably did not know you hurt me,” or, “I honor your feelings.”
Repressed though they may be, Norm and Corky invite Gerald and Laura over for drinks and to watch the Perseid meteor shower about to light up the sky over the boutique town of Ojai, Calif.
But unbeknownst to the hosts, their guests have a nefarious agenda: They have come to conquer and destroy.
“Let’s go for total collapse,” Gerald tells his wife as they make plans to crack open the perfect balance Norm and Corky have seemingly achieved in their relationship.
While the meteor shower definitely plays an important role in the play (no spoilers — wait until you see how), it is the emotionally alluring moves by the interloping couple that leave Norm and Corky reeling. Like us, they didn’t see it coming.
Martin’s theme here is the vulnerability of marriage and a commentary on the obstacles faced in keeping a modern marriage together.
But true to his absurdist roots, he doesn’t just hand it to us. He uses temporal shifts to go back in time and rerun a scene, offering funny, completely unexpected, alternative outcomes to the evening’s confrontations.
It’s all an hilarious exercise completely true to Martin’s absurdist, intellectual, very humorous view of the world, and one that will leave you laughing at the ideas he presents while at the same time, thinking how much you relate to what he’s saying.
Tickets for “Meteor Shower” can be purchased at www.redbarntheatre.com/ tickets or by calling the box office at 305-296-9911.
Ticketholders for March 26 are invited to join the cast and crew for the opening night party immediately following the show.
The engagement is sponsored by Jane Gardner Interiors, Wonderdog Studios and Design Group Key West. ¦