by Shirley Lorraine
Meteor Shower Rains Existential Mischief
Now in its 85th year of entertaining audiences, the Ojai Art Center Theater presents its 2024 season “Doorways to Dramatic Worlds” which promises to be stirring.
The Ojai Arts Center Theater is currently presenting an unusual, mind-bending piece of theater. Written by the multi-talented Steve Martin, gifted author, writer, actor and musician, the OACT has staged Meteor Shower, an extended one-act play cleverly directed by Brian Robert Harris.
Set in our lovely town of Ojai in 1993, the audience is invited to ponder some rather esoteric musings of a new-age couple who are trying hard to be “hip” yet who are actually wallowing in their own mediocrity. The piece is classic Martin, who is prone to philosophical questions that neither ask for nor require answers and who challenges the audience’s intellect and ideals without apology.
I thoroughly enjoyed the no-holds barred performances of all four actors – Evan Austin, Kimberly Demmary, Anna Kotula and John Medeiros. The cast was primed and ready for the adventure, each playing their characters with abandon. They are captivating to watch as they grapple with the many quirks in the telling of the story.
A charming split set design by Bianca Rice is complete with its own dazzling meteor shower, which, along with the artistic and functional living room, makes one feel comfortable and peaceful right away. The essence of Ojai is palpable in the serene setting. There are also a few surprising and effective special effects.
Myriad opportunities for laughter as well as philosophical references present themselves, along with the couple’s repeated attempts to “be emotionally connected” via affirmations. Ultimately, the play uses the allegory of the meteor shower raining down as insight into the couple’s inner emotional turmoil. However, the story is, in my opinion, bogged down by repetition of absurdities (really funny the first time, less so as the action continues) in a “let’s rewind and try a different outcome” mode which I found challenging to follow.
The extended skit is well acted and staged although the play itself was not satisfying to me. As in many of Martin’s New Yorker essays and other literary works, the premise began to fray with the repetition, settling for an abrupt “aha” revelation in the last moments which I believe was meant to explain the previous work.
The material does cover a wide range of sensitive adult areas which may be uncomfortable for some, including language that seems to be required these days to drive a point home. Be prepared to expand your mind to embrace whatever comes. The piece will certainly be a conversation starter for many.
Parking is limited and the street is quite dark in the evenings so early arrival and flashlights are recommended.
Meteor Shower runs through February 18 with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. www.OjaiArtCenter.org. Not recommended for children.