Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shooting Star at Trinity Rep

It is a shame, or a terrific irony, that a play as imaginative and credible as Shooting Star should have such an inane and insistent title. Indeed, the title is one of the few missteps in this modest and graceful show. The story of two former lovers who reunite serendipitously in a snowed-in airport, it seems, at first, to be a non-threatening riff on the contemporary fantasy of "closure." But over the short course of the play, skepticism gives way to recognition and, finally, to admiration. Author Steven Dietz has crafted a work both archetypal and specific; he grounds the yearning of our lives in the particular experiences of his characters'. Dietz knows that as characters come into focus--as they acquire histories and secrets and desires--they become more, not less, familiar to the audience. Our imaginations are nourished with detail. The show begins in the thin atmosphere of cliché--Reed McAllister is a frustrated husband and father whose job in sales is on the line; Elena Carson does yoga, listens to NPR, and has dated a string of drummers--before descending to a more salubrious altitude. That light-headed feeling you have early on in the play, caused by a surfeit of jokes about Canada, "red" and "blue" politics, and cell phones, is replaced by a piercing clarity of feeling. Kurt Rhoads gives Reed a weatherman's smugness, leavened by a dose of quiet desperation; Nance Williamson, as Elena, is vulnerable but resilient. The script is too scripty--it is contained and centered: we never feel the rush of risk as characters edge out to some new, untested perspective or proposition--but its emotions are just right. The show is pregnant with an exquisite ache.