WHAT “Meteor Shower”
WHERE Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St.
INFO $59-$169; 212-239-6200, telecharge.com
BOTTOM LINE Amy Schumer’s side-splittingly funny in Steve Martin’s play about marital chaos.
‘This doesn’t make sense,” proclaims one character, midway through Steve Martin’s new comedy “Meteor Shower.” He is far from alone in his confusion.
Martin is clearly a comic genius, but following this absurdist take on marital chaos, set during the Perseid meteor shower of 1993, requires some effort, what with frequent time jumps that have you trying to figure out exactly what is happening at any given moment.
With a less-talented cast, this would be a hot mess not worth the effort. But Martin has enlisted some high-power comedians — namely Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key, both making their Broadway debuts — to deliver the goods. And that they do, along with Broadway vets Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos, all directed by Jerry Zaks in a limited run (through Jan. 21) that set records with a ginormous $7.5 million advance.
Schumer and Shamos play Corky and Norm, a couple so caught up in the marital self-help movement that they perform an increasingly obnoxious ritual whenever a hurtful word is uttered. Norm has invited his tennis partner Gerald (Key) and his former Vogue editor wife, Laura (Benanti), to their Ojai, California, home to watch the evening’s meteor shower.
And the meteors do fly (brilliantly, with lighting by Natasha Katz), but the real heat comes from the sexually aggressive dinner guests, who clearly have more than the celestial exhibition on their minds. The couples toy with each other, escalating the insults and innuendos as they wander from living room to backyard on Beowulf Boritt’s striking set. (As Norm says, “This place could be in Architectural Digest.”)
Schumer, in a pristine white sweater with rows of cloying black bows (costumes by Ann Roth), plays the inhibited housewife to perfection, able to send the audience into side-splitting laughter with simply a scrunch of her face or a deadpan glare. Benanti, known lately for her Melania Trump impressions on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” is the complete opposite, a predator in a charmeuse slip dress, groping with abandon at anyone in reach. Try as they might, the men often seem simply along for the ride — Shamos as a garden-variety nebbish, Key a boisterous, full-of-himself blowhard.
What Martin, who last year gave Broadway the touching bluegrass musical “Bright Star,” is trying to get across is a bit of a mystery, though the sense is that it’s all about a couple coming to terms with their long-repressed desires.
But really, best to leave the psychological musings alone. You’ll have a great time if you just go for the laughs.