Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: New Jersey

Shooting Star: Charming, Bittersweet Romantic Comedy

Harry Patrick Christian and Laura Ekstrand
The setting is a large, snowed-in airport, somewhere between Boston (Massachusetts) and Austin (Texas). Here, Reed McAllister and Elena Carson meet for the first time since their college days at the University of Wisconsin where they had an extended and significant love affair ending twenty-five years earlier. Back in those days, Reed and Elena were radical "hippies" who fulminated against war, the government, conventional morality and bourgeois society.

Today, Reed is a buttoned down, sadly harried sales executive who is as stolidly conventional as the suit and tie in which he is imprisoned. However, Elena is still dressed in a loosely hanging paisley dress and loosely knit shawl. Beads hang from her neck, her long hair is sloppily unkempt, and she is carrying a ceremonial "rain stick" (whatever that may be). Reed is headed to Austin on a certain to be fruitless effort to obtain business for his firm. Elena says that she is headed to Boston in order to help a friend in need. However, the playwright is hiding the real reason for her trip for a poignant late evening revelation. Suffice it to say that both Reed and Elena are filled with regret over the direction that their lives have taken. If only ...

As Reed, Harry Patrick Christian continues to amaze with the depth and seemingly limitless range of his performances. He strongly conveys the pain and astonishment of a former footloose and carefree college boy hottie who realizes that he has turned into a stolid citizen. Laura Ekstrand captures the myriad contradictions which are embodied in the late to mature Elena. Whether despite or because of her slow emergence, it is the deep regret of Ekstrand's Elena which is most moving. Ekstrand's performance captures all of the humor to be derived from Elena's continuing '70s look and accoutrements without ever lapsing into caricature. The palpable connection to Reed/ Christian that Ekstrand projects brings added emotional resonance to the play.

Director David Christopher has directed with an unobtrusive hand, keeping the spotlight on his actors. Additionally, Christopher deploys the cast about the stage in a manner which has them playing equally to each of the three sides of the stage on which the audience is seated.

A special treat for the baby boom generation is Shooting Stars' numerous humorous references to 1970s culture. Steven Dietz has borrowed his title for this play from a Bob Dylan song which is quoted in the program:

Guess it's too late to say the things to you
that you needed to hear me say
Saw a shooting star tonight
slip away

With Shooting Star, prolific veteran playwright Steven Dietz, whose plays have been seen at over 150 regional theatres as well as Off-Broadway and in fifteen foreign countries, has written a deft and witty, two-handed, bittersweet romantic comedy with which anyone past the blush of youth will readily identify. With unerring skill, Dietz has provided theatregoers with an intelligent, light entertainment. It is readily apparent why it has been widely produced in regional theatres since its 2009 Austin, Texas, world premiere.

Shooting Star continues performances through January 29 (Friday and Saturday 8 pm / Sunday 2 pm) at the Dreamcatcher Repertory Company, Baird Cultural Center in Meadowland Park, 5 Mead Street, South Orange, New Jersey 07079. Box Office: (Brown Paper Tickets) 1-800-838-3006; online: Theatre: 973-378-7754 ext. 2228.

Shooting Star by Steven Dietz; directed by David Christopher

Reed McAllister...............Harry Patrick Christian
Elena Carson..............................Laura Ekstrand

Photo: Steve McIntyre

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