Don’t take Meteor Shower too seriously. It’s Broadway theatre, but seriously, well, don’t take it too seriously. At least that’s what actor Jeremy Shamos says makes the new comedy from Tony nominee and famous funnyman Steve Martin work—its lack of pretension.
“That’s one of Steve’s specialties,” says Shamos, who stars in Meteor Shower alongside Tony winner Laura Benanti and Broadway newcomers—but comedy icons—Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key. “It’s always fun to make fun of anyone who takes anything too seriously.” And the quartet seems to be having a blast during their limited engagement through January 21, 2018, at the Booth Theatre.
It makes sense the comedy from the man who invented “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” (a.k.a. The Festrunk Brothers) for Saturday Night Live hits a balance of silliness and social commentary in his Broadway playwriting debut. “It’s got a lot of different styles of humor in it, which I think is Steve Martin’s specialty,” says Shamos. “Sometimes he makes a really intellectual joke and then does a crazy dance. It is sort of absurdist; it’s also got a lot of heart.”
Set on the eve of the titular astronomical event, Shamos’ character, Norm, and his wife Corky (Schumer) host a viewing for new friends Gerald and Laura, a couple that gets off on digs at each other’s personalities and threats of cheating—clearly opposite of the wholesome hosts.
A combination of sincerity and naïveté, Norm and Corky take their marriage seriously. Enter Martin’s humor: Within the first minutes of the play, the couple physically step outside of their conversation—after Norm makes an off-handed remark—to hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes and air their feelings. Cue the rehearsed therapy talk: “I hear your perspective and I cherish you” and “I honor you cherishing my perspective” and “I appreciate your honoring my cherishing your perspective.”
As funny as Martin’s dialogue is, an added layer of humor comes in seeing these four actors play these roles. Corky isn’t just funny because she’s socially awkward and prude—she’s funny because it’s Amy Schumer playing someone socially awkward and prude.
Meteor Shower also capitalizes on the comedic gifts of its players. Schumer and Key come from the standup and sketch comedy worlds (Inside Amy Schumer and Key & Peele, respectively) where improv runs rampant; Benanti has been honing her comedy chops for years, now the unofficial official impersonator of Melania Trump; and Shamos has performed in everything from farces like Noises Off to satires like Nurse Jackie. All four experiment with each other onstage, improvising physical comedy to inject a fresh edge each show.
Shamos especially relishes the scene where Norm flirts with Gerald to mess with his head. “I just play with [Key] in different ways, and I think the audience enjoys it because they know I’m messing with him,” says Shamos. (Indeed, the theatre fills with howls at this point in the romp.) “And so the line between my character messing with his character and Jeremy messing with Keegan is a fine line the audience enjoys watching.”
As Martin’s work straddles multiple genres of comedy, and the actors straddle each other, Shamos finds comfort in surprising his audiences.
“The joy of watching live theatre is unpredictability,” Shamos says, “and this show has plenty of it.”