Beck Center’s absurdist work ‘Meteor Shower’ is a quick burn out
For many in the “normal” heartland of this great country California is considered “The Great Granola Bowl” with its collection of flakes, fruits and nuts. Whenever something “creative” comes from that side of the country it is met with...well...I am not sure what.
A few years ago, another Cleveland theater attempted to produce an absurd Steve Martin play titled “Picasso At The Lapin Apso” (Nimble Rabbit) where the surrealist painter meets with Albert Einstein in a small French bar to discuss their brilliant futures and the meaning of life and stuff like that. The show nearly made sense until the arrival from the future by Elvis (you know, the dude of “Blue Suede Shoes” fame. Yea, right...that’s what I said.
Imagine my utter delight when I learned that The Beck Center for the Arts decided to produce yet another Steve Martin absurdist work titled “Meteor Shower”. I was not to be disappointed. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the crystal bowl of three egg plant sitting next to the sofa on the rather amazing revolving set. That should have been the tip off.
It is night in Ojai, California. Norm has invited Gerald (Norm’s tennis partner) and his wife Laura to view a once in a lifetime meteor shower from their back yard. Actually, Norm had no idea there was a meteor shower scheduled and Gerald basically invited himself and his wife. With Ojai being far away from the city it makes for the perfect viewing site.
Norm is married to Corky. They may or may not have any children. Both are heavily into PREP or “Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program” where couples confront each other whenever conflict or harshness enters their little cocoon and blah blah blah la-de-da it happens far too often.
Although the play did have its premiere on Broadway it only lasted two months and to harsh reviews yet surprisingly Amy Schuymer as Corky resulted in a Tony nomination. Go figure.
Over the course of the evening various vignettes are played out among the four as their behavior spirals more and more out of control and veers into such subjects as threesomes, shooting heroin mixed with snorting coke, killer meteors and penis size. Each mini-scene involves the same four people but with completely different story lines to the point where the audience has difficulty in figuring what is up and what the heck is going on.
What seems to be a normal evening between two couples goes weird up to a blackout then the scene is reset and replayed with a different scenario. There is role reversal, open drug use, drinking, sex and death or maybe not. This is not the type of play one would expect from the Beck Center but perhaps they decided to take a little walk on the wild side to sort of shake up their audience. Judging by the reactions and comments of the departing members they can rest assured that that fact was accomplished. One saving grace is that the entire play only lasts 85 minutes without intermission.
The show is not a total loss. It does have its moments that are salvaged by the above average acting abilities of the cast and work of Director Scott Spence. Abraham Adams (Norm) is more than versatile using his face to good comic advantage. Laura Mielcarek (Corky) looks on the surface to be a normal, healthy and well adjusted modern woman but soon reveals various darker sides. Leslie Andrews (Laura) is an ex-fatty who fights to control her compulsive eating habits. She knows that she is attractive and knows how to use that to her advantage. Leilani Barrett (Gerald) is a bombastic braggadocio who thinks that he has ALL of the answers...just ask him or better yet he will tell you without you asking. He is the guest that you wish you had never invited and will probably never leave. In short everything is done for shock effect and in that vein it accomplishes in spades.
By use of an ingenious revolving stage designed by Cameron Caley Michalak, the living room and patio glide into place with ease when needed. Tim Chrisman does a great job with the lighting and projection chores and Angie Haye’s sound design is crystal clear.
If you are a fan of absurdist theatre (such stuff as “Waiting For Godot”, “End Game”, “Rinocerous” and such) then this show is right up your dark and twisty alley. While some will find the show deeply disturbing others will heap praise. It really depends on which side of the tea cup you sip your beverage from.
The Beck Center for the Arts production of “Meteor Shower” will be on stage in the Beck Center’s Studio Theater through May 1, 2022. For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.beckcenter.org or call (216) 521-2540 (Ex. 10).