For those who have never been to the charming theater within the Ojai Arts Center (OAC), consider a trip up Highway 33. The OAC, nestled downtown amongst boutiques and California-casual eateries, is an attractive space with a cozy stage and a resident theater company in their 85th season. Their opening play of 2024, Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower (directed by Brian Robert Harris) runs through February 18th.
Meteor Shower is a one-act play that offers an absurdist take on a pair of couples getting to know each other. The focus of the text is on the increasingly inexplicable behaviors of characters who love to light fires and stir the pot. It begins innocuously enough: Corky (Kimberly Demmary) prepares to host another couple that her husband, Norm (Evan Austin), has invited over to view the evening’s meteor shower. The couple, Gerald and Laura (John Medieros and Anna Kotula), drives to Ojai from Santa Barbara to escape the city’s light pollution. What becomes clear through the ensuing scenes is Gerald and Laura’s particular passion for emotionally torturing other couples into a hot-headed turmoil, seeding and stoking the “total collapse” of a marriage.
It’s an interesting concept that, in practice, presents as a bizarre barrage of jokes that roughly amounts to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, as done in the style of a long-form SNL skit. The text has no real narrative arc, and the play is more “situation” than “story.” However, the actors are robust and truly embrace the word “play” in their performances. Stage design features several fun design elements, with the highlights being the destruction wreaked by rogue meteors. The play reaches for meaning by broaching concepts of time fluidity, action and reaction, and confronting conflict; but overlaid against sitcom style and favoring caricature over character development. Ultimately Meteor Shower (while not unpleasant) makes very little sense.