Shooting stars aren't really stars, they're meteoroids. Nothing more than space debris zooming through that vast expanse, occasionally close enough to our planet for its inhabitants to witness a millisecond of a trace of trailblazing sparkle in the sky.
When you see one, you probably think "neat!"
Not "I wonder what it's going to crash into and ruin?"
That's pretty much what goes through your head when you meet someone you're attracted to, as well. Thoughts of a future, whether that be for the next few hours or decades, with that certain someone, wander through your head at some point. There's usually no thought given to the potential mess that will happen later when one or both of you screws everything up.
That's what makes it worthwhile. Life's uncertainties keep us going.
That's the premise of Steven Dietz's play Shooting Star, now receiving a bang-up production at WaterTower Theatre. Directed by Mark Fleischer, the former artistic director of defunct Plano Repertory Theatre, the production will move to the Adirondack Theatre Festival in July, where Fleischer now serves as A.D.
It's a fitting show to move cross-country, considering that's what the two characters are doing when they find one another while snowed in at an airport. Reed (James Crawford) and Elena (Diana Sheehan) were lovers 25 years ago in college in Madison, Wis., and haven't seen each other since their apparently intense breakup. Being stuck in the airport gives them plenty of time to discuss their past, what has happened since and to rediscover old feelings.
Predictably, their lives have taken pretty diverse paths. She was and still is a free spirit, wearing a hippy-dippy skirt and still occasionally partaking in mind-expanding herbs. She never married. He's buttoned-up and Republican and going through some changes in his marriage while dealing with a teenage daughter who's dating.
Dietz's writing and characters feel all too convenient at times, but in some ways, that's what's engaging about it. The familiarity of them—we all know folks like them, if we're not one or the other ourselves—keeps us going along with their latest turn on life's cosmic roadway. The idea of missed connections seems a little quaint in the post-Facebook era (the play is set in 2005), but that's not so long ago that we forget the excitement of revisiting the past with someone who made an impact.
It wouldn't work so well without actors who can sell the connection—not just the one now, but the one they used to have. Crawford and Sheehan commit to that idea with a big payoff. Each of them finds layers that go underneath the writing, giving us characters that we know and like (and sometimes dislike), but are also filled with surprises and secrets.
It's two of our best local actors in top form, and looking great on Michael Sullivan's sleek airport terminal set, with smart video projections and sound design from Scott Guenther.