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Review: 'Meteor Shower'

Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, Amy Schumer, Laura Benanti (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, Amy Schumer, Laura Benanti (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

by

Ojai, California has been in the news because of the raging wildfires in California, but in August, 1993, Ojai was the site of a more benign natural event - spectacular meteor showers. That real-life phenomenon is the backdrop for Steve Martin's phenomenally funny play, Meteor Shower, which has just opened at the Booth Theatre.

Corky and Norm, a sweet couple played by Jeremy Shamos and Amy Schumer, have invited Gerald and Laura, played by Keegan-Michael Key and Laura Benanti, for an evening of drinks and stargazing, but they don't know what they're in for. Gerald is a loud, self-absorbed alpha male and Laura his skilled accomplice in playing head games on their hosts. For most of the play it's a bit like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in reverse, without Edward Albee's character development, but a whole lot more laughs, which come whizzing as fast as the meteor showers.

Beyond Steve Martin's name, Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key are the marquee attractions here, based on their TV and film exposure. Key, best known for his award-winning series "Key and Peele," is the stronger actor, with stage experience that Schumer lacks, but she's a first-rate comedienne who's good at sight gags and knows how to deliver Martin's punch lines. Her Everywoman persona is matched well with Broadway veteran Shamos, who as Norm is, yes, a very normal man. Their New Age-style couple's routines are delightful. The real scene stealer is the delicious Laura Benanti, a five-time Tony nominee for productions including Gypsy, Swing!, and She Loves Me. She radiates sexual energy with some moves that might leave you breathless.

The play is structured as a series of blackouts, with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as the soundtrack. Under the masterful direction of Jerry Zaks, it's a slick, fast-moving 75 minutes with a few surprise twists. Although this play isn't as ambitious as Picasso at the Lapin Agile, it will do nothing to damage Martin's reputation as a comic genius. His last Broadway foray was the entertaining bluegrass musical, Bright Star, his collaboration with Edie Brickell. That had the misfortune to be staged the same year as Hamilton. With a limited run, Meteor Shower may or may not be a Tony winner, but it's definitely a hit.