Two-person dramas are going to be talky. They just are. So it really helps when the play is lively, full of human insight, and extremely well acted, as Weathervane Playhouse’s “Shooting Star” is.
Steven Dietz’s play – which incidentally is being performed in Weathervane Playhouse’s intimate 50-seat black box Dietz Theater – tells the story of two college lovers (Reed and Elena) who run into each other in a snowed-in airport waiting room after 25 years of separation. They’d had a fling in their carefree “hippie” days, but had each taken their own paths thereafter.
Reed married, had a daughter, and grew into a tie-wearing, “do as you’re told” corporate mid-level manager. Elena seemingly spent her years linking up with one non-commital man after another, dreaming of a back-to-basics existence in which she and her happy nuclear family would bake bread and make soup together in a cabin in the woods.
When they meet up again, things happen. Memories – good and bad, harrowing and joyful – surface. Old but strong feelings of love, lust and adventure come out of nowhere, making them wonder if they’d missed a big chance and if this chance meeting was a sign – like a wish upon a shooting star – that they could start all over again.
Just like in real life, things don’t always work out the way you want. They know that, but in the realization they also discover that they are really content with letting their different lives go on and that they will somehow muddle through.
It’s pretty easy to see that “Shooting Star” has a lot of poignancy underling the central drama. At the performance I saw, the two actors from Weathervane Playhouse, a Knight Arts grantee, pulled off the nuances of the narrative in spades.
Laura Stitt, who plays Elena Carson, is a marvelous actress. She has enormous stage presence, but more than that, when watching her, you forget about the actress and immerse your suspended disbelief in the character she is portraying. It’s really cool to start to see the character as a real person and understand the character in those terms. Elena has made a mess of many things in her life, but her humanity takes the edge off it all. She is a lot like the rest of us – full of flaws and goodness. Laura Stitt makes us see all that.
Michael Gaffney, who plays Reed McAllister, creates a complex characterization. Reed is a kind of “put upon” character who needs the jolt from a person as quirky and sparkly as Elena to get him going again. Gaffney’s interpretation helps to generate a strong chemistry between the two actors/characters throughout the drama.
Director Rohn Thomas and assistant director Jerimie Newcomb adapted to the constraints and opportunities of the black box theater for focusing on different aspects of action between the characters and to keep the pace lively.
“Shooting Star” will be performed 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 8:00p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through November 10 at Weathervane Playhouse’s Dietz Theater, 1301 Weathervane Lane, Akron; 330-836-2626; www.weathervaneplayhouse.com. Tickets are $18.