It’s impossible not to laugh out loud during Jobsite Theater’s production of Meteor Shower, an absurdist comedy written by the comic actor Steve Martin.
That’s to be expected if you’re a fan of Martin. His voice in the dialogue is loud and clear. The male characters, in particular, come off like familiar versions of Martin. But the skilled actors also have great comic moments in the four-person play, directed by Paul J. Potenza.
Married couple Norm (Jordan Foote) and Corky (Jonelle M. Meyer) have another couple, Laura (Amy E. Gray) and Gerald (Jamie Jones), over to watch a meteor shower at their home in Ojai, Calif. Corky has never met them but is already jealous of Laura, grilling Norm for details about her.
Right away, it’s clear that Norm and Corky have been working on their marriage. They’re stifled and tragically regular. They subscribe to self-help psychobabble, checking in with each other when one says something wrong, which is often. They grasp hands and say, “I understand you probably don’t know that you hurt me.”
So it’s not hard for the insufferable Laura and Gerald to upset their fragile state. And that’s what they’ve come to do, inexplicably — ruin their marriage. Jones’ arrogant Gerald is a snake in the grass, creating little fissures between Norm and Corky. As Laura, Gray is seductive, larcenous and skillful at throwing shade. Foote plays Norm’s nervous reluctance to Laura’s advances and Gerald’s illicit suggestions just right.
While the other characters don’t have much depth, Corky is complex. Starting out as meek and insecure, her turn to ferocity is a welcome breakthrough. The role is clearly the most fun to play, and Meyer has a ball owning it. Her background story is the most absurd: She once resorted to cannibalism, leading to a disorder called exploding head syndrome. Meyer flexes her prowess at physical humor during these fits.
But just when think you know what’s coming, Martin’s surreal script bends time with scenes that get played over with different outcomes, role reversals and a major twist at the end. The meteor shower seems to create these turns, demonstrated by very effective atmospheric lighting designed by Jo Averill-Snell.
Witty dialogue is woven throughout the play, but the audience roared as the humor turned more physical and sexual. As Norm, Foote handles a sight gag that lit the crowd up and Meyer and Gray have a very funny scene on a couch involving celery. All of the actors have impeccable comic timing. At 75 minutes, the play bounced along with a barrage of laughter coming every few minutes. Many bellies and cheeks went home sore.
But beyond all the comedy, at the heart of Meteor Shower is an existential exploration of marriage. As to the twist, this line spoken twice in the play is a clue:
“If you don’t deal with your subconscious, it will deal with you.”
IF YOU GO
Meteor Shower runs through Oct. 6. Tickets for the Oct. 3-6 performances go on sale on Sept. 15. All other dates are on sale now. $29.50. Shimberg Playhouse at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. For showtimes, visit jobsitetheater.org.