“A woman needs to marry before she gets too interesting,” Elena says ruefully. And Elena, as played by Michelle Duffy, is one of the most interesting characters you’ll see on stage this year. Elena is a hippie who never got over it. She also, apparently, never quite got over her love for Reed (Kevin Symons), and for those good old days on the commune.
It is now 25 years later, and Elena and Reed suddenly find themselves marooned in an airport terminal in a blinding snowstorm. They have not seen each other since those happy hippie days, and both of them are appalled at this chance meeting. Awkward!
So begins playwright Steven Dietz’s delightful romantic comedy, “Shooting Star,” now having its West Coast premiere at Burbank’s beautiful Colony Theatre. This is a funny play, romantic, nostalgic, and bittersweet, and it is brilliantly brought to life by its two outstanding actors, under the meticulous direction of multiple award winner David Rose, who has mounted some 25 previous productions at the Colony.
Having initially avoided acknowledging each other’s presence, Elena and Reed finally settle down for an uncomfortable “catch-up.” He is ill at ease; she is bantering. But it’s soon obvious that there is a lot of unfinished business between these two.
He has turned into a starchy businessman in a black wool overcoat, while she is outfitted exquisitely in hyper-hippie mode. Her multiple layers of skirts, her suede belt and boots, her jersey blouse are all in shades of purple, mauve, and pink — not quite the fashion anymore, but beautiful nevertheless. Costume designer Dianne Graebner has done a perfect job of capturing Elena’s personality, and Michelle Duffy wears the clothes as if she had been born in them.
As the long evening wears on, with flight delays and cancellations, the two former lovers loosen up and become confessional. Then, after a number of drinks to pass the time, they loosen up even more.
The beauty of this play, however, is that it doesn’t go where you think it’s going. No obvious clichés here. And it keeps you fascinated to the very last moment.
In addition to the superb acting and the intelligent script, the production qualities of “Shooting Star” need to be commended. David Potts has designed a beautiful, uncluttered set for the large Colony stage: two rows of back-to-back waiting-room seats, a few diagonal pillars, and a huge arched window that dominates the background and looms in darkness, with a hint of fir trees behind it and a luminous snow that falls continuously.
As for the title, “Shooting Star,” it comes from a Bob Dylan song whose lyrics reflect the overall theme of the play:
“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 …”
Shooting Star will continue at the Colony Theatre, 555 North Third St., in Burbank, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Oct. 16. Call (818) 558-7000 ext. 15, or go online to www.ColonyTheatre.org for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.