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Steve Martin's 'Meteor Shower' Has World Premiere At Old Globe

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Comedy looks to marriage, relationships, and SoCal life

Steve Martin's 'Meteor Shower'
Steve Martin's 'Meteor Shower' Has World Premiere At Old Globe
Steve Martin's 'Meteor Shower' Has World Premiere At Old Globe GUESTS:Steve Martin, playwright, "Meteor Shower" Barry Edelstein, artistic director, The Old Globe Theatre Gordon Edelstein, director, "Meteor Shower" Beth Accomando, arts reporter, KPBS

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The old Globe and Steve Martin partnered on "Bright Star" two years ago with great success. Now he returns to the globe at the comedy called "Meteor Shower". Beth Accomando talks to Martin about the play. It's a bit like a Steve Martin appreciation society. Barry Edelstein would like him to consider the globe his home. He's a gifted comic writer. So when Steve Martin comes along and says I have a new comedy. And he's is accomplished as he is, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and all those things. You take it seriously. The other thing is that, I have a friendship and professional collaboration going back close to 30 years. At least 20 -- 22 or 23 years. Those relationships are precious in serious and you don't take them lightly. When somebody on that short list of people, that you have that long artistic relationship, since you have something to look at it. You take it seriously. Gordon Edelstein is directing "Meteor Shower" and he figured to sing his praises. Steve Martin is a unique voice in American entertainment. He has a unique and very specific artistic point of view. And like all great artists, I do think Steve is a great artist. Like all great artists, they are utterly and thoroughly themselves. As soon as I read it, it was Steve's brilliant, hilarious sense of humor. His slightly off center take on human beings. I understand you probably did not know that you hurt me. You said I probably did not know. That I hurt you. [ laughter ] Yes. I'm asking you to be more careful with my feelings. Your feelings are not playthings. Yes. I'm sorry I hurt you in this way. I hope you understand that I did not intend to hurt you and I will try to use that particular joking matter less often. Is a play about marriage and relationships. And about sexual relations. And I thought it was as -- is usual for Steve, hilarious, brilliant and truthful. Steve has a very generous spirit. If you think of all his comedy, there is not a cruel moment in anything he's ever written. So it is both somewhat satiric at, what fools these mortals be, somewhat satiric at all our behavior, yet it's done with a loving and knowing non-joined mental heart. "Meteor Shower" will be Martin second collaboration with the globe. The first being "Bright Star". He has a very good working relationship with the globe and Barry Edelstein. I have a very good working relationship with the globe. I knew Barry Edelstein years before he came here. And then he Asking me what I have in the drawer. And you keep playthings out. I keep pulling things out. Do think you learned anything from "Bright Star" to put together for "Meteor Shower" ? I learned an enormous amount. But they are two very different experiences with "Bright Star", we have a cast of 18 and an orchestra. And a choreographer. Many different departments. On display there are only four actors and a director. That's pretty much it for my communication. The more you work on some in a genre, the more you know about it. I know those four years working on "Bright Star" was informative to me. They went from "Bright Star", to a a "Meteor Shower". Does this reveal anything about your fascination with astronomy click I never even put that together. Them -- the "Meteor Shower" is actually about a meteor shower. Hundred meteor shower come up in conversation? She said he wanted to leave town to watch this meteor shower so he puffs up and Calling it a rain of fire. Once-in-a-lifetime -- and I said we live in Ojai, and he said can you say the stars their? And I said yes shopping on the weekends. [ laughter ]. And he looked at me like -- You like that. Yes , he got the joke. You started "Meteor Shower" about two decades ago crack quite Yes. What initially inspired you to write it and what made you feel this inspiration to go back to it I have been going back to it periodically through the years. I think the first time we had a staged reading of it -- I thought it was working but it needs some work. I get very busy all the sudden and didn't pursue it. And every once in a while I would take it out and to -- make some changes. It's inspiration -- because I started 20 years ago it -- I'm not sure. I just thought "Meteor Shower" is a great umbrella event to that couples in the situation. Because sitcom writing is so good these days and has been for a long time that's you have to be careful your play is not a sitcom. It has to be a real theatrical and a little more intellectual and out of the real world than a normal sitcom would be. How do you feel you did that in this particular play? How did you pull it out of the sitcom realm and put it into a field around? One the language is different than the way people talk normally. Sometimes the little more product. Is not often. But also the events occur out of time. The time get struggled around. A little bit. And also I feel it has a deeper point. Then you would find in a sitcom. Talk about your quest -- cast. They are incredible. They all are from different parts of the globe, Alex is a theater actress and Jenna we all know, and we know the other two and they are spot on. I told him, you guys are so good that if something doesn't work I know it's the script. And sometimes when you're working, you can tell because you know the actor didn't deliver it the way it was intended. Let's put it that way. This is a cantaloupe. [ Indiscernible ]. I'm sorry she is like to talk about it that since we are popping into the scene. Is that true? Don't answer if you don't want to. While yes it is true. But I don't like how you phrase it, Norm. I am not a cannibal. I was once a cannibal. Remember we looked it up and it doesn't matter if you are actively doing it now. Once you remain a cannibal. So this is a great gift to be able to work with these really talented actors because they are not only delivering it spot on, they are elevating and creating humor between the lines. So I'm really grateful to them. All right. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you so much. You can ditch rehearsals only a minute late. "Meteor Shower" runs through September 18 at the globes white theater in the round.

Steve Martin's 'Meteor Shower' Has World Premiere At Old Globe
The Old Globe Theatre would like Steve Martin to view its stage as a home for anything he writes. Two years ago it hosted his musical "Bright Star." Now comes the world premiere of his play "Meteor Shower."
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Two years ago, Old Globe Theatre Artistic Director Barry Edelstein announced the world premiere of "Bright Star," a musical created by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Now Edelstein welcomes Martin back to the Globe with the world premiere of "Meteor Shower."

"They are very different [works]," Edelstein said. "'Bright Star' is a very sentimental story and the music brought out an emotional tide that gave it a wistful feeling. 'Meteor Shower' doesn’t have that; it’s a much edgier and purely funny comedy."

But playwright Martin wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a sitcom on stage.

"Sitcom writing is so good now you have to be careful that your play is not a sitcom," Martin said. "So it has to be a real theatrical experience and more intellectual and out of the real world than a normal sitcom would be. I want to make sure its number one purpose is to be funny and be surprising."

And it is. It taps into Martin’s love of theater, of the absurd and pushes the envelope on reality. But he doesn’t want to give away too much.

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"I don’t want to say, 'here’s what it is,' and then have people come see it already knowing what it is," Martin said.

"We are calling it an adult comedy because there are mature themes in it," Edelstein added. "It’s a marriage comedy. It’s an infidelity comedy. It’s a relationship comedy, very intimate in its form and intimate in what it’s about, but it goes into some really interesting things about what it’s like to try and forge a relationship with another person over a long period of time."

"I thought it was hilarious, brilliant and very insightful and truthful," Director Gordon Edelstein (no relation to Barry) said. "If you think of all his comedy, there is not a cruel moment in anything he’s ever written, so it is both somewhat satiric at the what fools these mortals be, somewhat satiric at all our behavior, yet it’s done with a loving and knowing, non-judgmental heart."

The play takes a familiar premise: One couple invites another couple over for dinner. Think "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf" with a "Twilight Zone" twist.

"The couple that comes over stirs the pot," Gordon Edelstein said. "Other sides of each of the characters' personalities come out."

Live theater affords Martin an immediate response from the audience about what's working and what's not.

"With live theater you test it every night," Martin said. "It’s still being tweaked. This has only been performed ever twice. So you are constantly learning things and you don’t want to say that’s it. The main surprise was that they were laughing because you just never know. Sometimes you go to bed the night before the first preview going, 'I can’t think of one funny thing in this play.'"

But audiences can.

"One of the things that’s fun about watching a play in San Diego is you come away with the sense of a wry, ironic thinker having fun with the very particular subculture of our part of the U.S.," Barry Edelstein said.

It's the response of a live theater audience that keeps bringing Martin back to the stage.

"I love really earning those laughs," he said.

And for the moment he’s collecting high dividends.

"Meteor Shower" runs through Sept. 18 at the Globe’s White Theater in the round. Tickets are essentially sold out for the entire run but individual tickets might be returned and made available.

Martin's full interview will be featured in the Cinema Junkie Podcast 88.