Written by Steve Martin
Garland Civic Theatre
Directed by Jeff Fenter
Lighting & Scene Design by Edgar Leonardo Hernandez
Costume Design by Kerra Sims
Production Stage Management, Properties & Sound Design by Allison Larrea
Produced by Kerra Sims
Corky – Kimberly Hilton
Norm – Thomas McKee
Gerald – Gabriel Grinffiel
Laura – Adelina Clamser
Reviewed Performance: 3/10/2023
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Meteor Shower is written by the renown comic Steve Martin, and the play premiered on Broadway in 2017. This amusing parody of polite society comes to the comfortable Garland Civic Theatre this March. The play explores the many different ways that a dinner party can go wrong. Social mores for hospitality are explored and tested in hilarious ways. Meteor Shower may start with a Neil Simon type riff on the wealthy’s lack of self awareness, but it moves well beyond cultured conversation. The alternative realities of this soiree include unchecked lust, overtly malicious manipulations, George Santos level lying, death, gay trysts, and meteor catastrophe.
The setting is an affluent home in mountainous Ojai, California in the year 1993. Corky (Kimberly Hilton) and Norm (Thomas McKee) are expecting guests to share a meal and collectively enjoy the titular meteor shower. Corky and Norm are happily married (for now). She buttons Norm’s shirt and playfully offers Norm a “pre-wine,” because as she explains, “if you drink before the guests arrive, it doesn’t count.”
A highlight of the first vignette are hilarious send ups of couples’ therapy exercises, which include such lines as “my feelings are not playthings” and “I need to be in my cave now.” Hilton and McKee do justice to the material by going through the exercises with just the right mixture of sincerity and impatience. It is wickedly funny, because it might be real, even though it is just silly. I can imagine Martin being forced to endure this with the late Anne Heche (may she rip), and realizing years later how worthless the “I see you” platitudes were.
Our expectations are teased as Norm describes the couple that he has invited to dinner. We know he is lying about how sexy the wife is, and as he describes the husband’s mercurial and self-serving temperament, we know it was a mistake to extend these people an invitation.
When the guests arrive, we are entertained by the aggressive rudeness of the overtly preening and braggadocious Gerald (Gabriel Grinffiel) and the catty and dishonest Laura (Adelina Clamser). They make no attempt to be polite guests, and it is funny seeing Corky and Norm not kick them out. The outsiders tell a string of obvious lies, hit on Corky in front of Norm, and their “negging” behavior is off the charts. Gerald and Laura do not out-class their host and hostess by any metric, but that does not stop them from pretending otherwise. Their insults include Laura’s quip that, “your kitchen is wonderful. I just love how you never fixed it up.”
In a play seemingly about something as commonplace as hosting friends for dinner, Martin takes reality away from us and explores different versions of the same evening from the point of view of the same host and hostess. The set is artfully designed at an angle so that the audience enjoys Gerald and Laura’s different entrances to the residence in different versions of the dinner party.
This production really hits its stride in the last vignette. The couple finally understands that they must “protect and defend” their marriage from the invading guests. The tables are turned on who is being hostile and dishonest to whom. Is Martin exposing that it is funny either way? The Corky-Norm offense is well played by Hilton and McKee, with Clamser and Grinffiel convincing in their characters’ befuddlement. “We’ve overstayed our welcome,” is rejoined with, “no you were never welcome.” The explanation of Gerald and Laura’s identity in this last version of the evening is extremely clever.
Hilton is well cast as the seemingly patrician, sometimes condescending Corky. Her face is readily expressive with only subtle shifts, and she loosens up the character with comic fluidity. Clamser is gorgeous in her sultry appearance. Laura is a bad girl living from thrill to naughty thrill, and Clamser convinces as she has fun with it. McKee is affable as normal “Norm”, and does a great comic job as a walking corpse. Grinffiel is handsome and well paired with Clamser. Gerald is a frequently evil character, as he plots “total destruction” on his host’s marriage and is flagrantly handsy with his hostess. Grinffiel pulls it off with swagger.
The production does a wonderful job of immersing the audience in the 1990’s. The set, a comfortable upscale living room that turns into an outdoor lounging space with a view, adheres to a modern deconstructionist vibe. Sleek black leather furniture and a fully stocked bar are accessorized with a 1990’s landline phone and a basket of paper news sources. The video projections are visually and thematically gorgeous. Playful blue dots are interspersed with shooting meteors. Snippets of pop songs from the era perfectly set up some of the scenes and were fun to hear again. These include Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, the original “I’m Too Sexy” (rather than that ersatz club remix), and the topical “Tainted Love.”
The costumes feature Corky’s bright salmon button down shirt over ubiquitous khaki plants and flats, juxtaposed with Gerald’s black tank top. The highlight of the costuming is Norm’s zombie shirt, which reminded me of Goldie Hawn’s plight in Death Becomes Her.
The play runs an hour and twenty minutes. The Garland Civic Theatre is an inviting space, and the plush velvet chairs are perfectly comfortable. Meteor Shower is unique in combining a seemingly normal domestic scene with norm-breaking and supernatural twists. I recommend this production for a fun and funny evening of live theater.
Garland Civic Theatre
March 10-26, 2023
Granville Arts Center - Small Theatre
300 N. Fifth Street, Downtown Garland, 75040
For information and Tickets call (972) 205-2780 or go to https://www.garlandartsboxoffice.com/p/pages/garland-civic-theatre