Did you ever wonder what a guy would look like if a zooming meteor tore through his stomach? That’s one of the slapstick bits running through Steve Martin’s “Meteor Shower.” Given Martin’s well-proven reputation, this work is regrettably a weak, disappointing play and offers snatches of amusement mostly thanks to its cast and the skill of director Jerry Zaks.
Martin seems to be aiming to satirize the behavior and interplay of couples, in his case meeting at a house (set design by Beowulf Boritt) in Ojai, California, in 1993 to observe a meteor shower. Via Natasha Katz’s lighting design, we see meteors attractively shooting across the stage to set the scene.
One couple, Corky and Norm, is played by Amy Schumer and Jeremy Shamos. Less-than-welcome guests (at least at first) are Laura and Gerald, played by Laura Benanti and Keegan-Michael Key.
Schumer, who has a large following, is best known for her verbal humor skills, but here she shows that she can excel at physical humor as well, exemplified by the way she can hoist her legs in the air wide apart for a sexual encounter while feigning innocence, or the way she can do a little dance. But the play requires her to also do silly little things with her husband as they have ways of apologizing to one another and vowing their love, and Shamus gets into the spirit with equal foolishness.
Key as Gerald is obnoxiously loud-mouthed and overbearing, played for comic effect, but Benanti is the most skillful of all, looking great and sexy and tossing off droll comments with welcome understatement, especially effective in the midst of the labored mayhem.
Author Martin positions his characters for sexual interplay, both hetero and gay, apparently making the point that everyone is open to something new. Much of the audience on the night I attended seemed to be eating all this up with loud laughter.
True, Martin has shown that as a performer he can be great with nutty, physical comedy. But he has also demonstrated what a witty writer he can be. You won’t find much wit in “Meteor Shower,” but you will find physical comedy deftly performed by his cast. If only he had written a better play. At the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed December 7, 2017.