"I drink to excess, smoke a lot of dope, but I still can't forget anything. It's horrible."
The female lead of "Shooting Star," now running at Trinity Repertory Theatre, isn't the only one feeling horrible after sitting through Steven Dietz's intelligently scripted but poorly executed romantic comedy.
This two-person, 80-minute production offers up an interesting concept: Reed McAllister and Elena Carson, former college sweethearts, run into each other 25 years later at a snowed-in airport with nothing but time to kill and the knowledge that they probably won't see each other ever again. How will they react — ask the questions they never did? Hash out old problems? Ignore the other person completely?
Well, Reed and Elena definitely do not ignore each other. Reed (played by Kurt Rhoads) is a typical businessman running off to close this week's biggest deal of the year while his family is left to wonder if they'll ever get that kind of attention. Elena (Nance Williamson) has retained her hippie persona from when she and Reed dated, walking around the airport with a rainstick and yoga mat in tow.
It's red versus blue in this tale of boy meets girl — again.
Throughout the play, Reed and Elena share stories long into the early hours of the morning. Reed admits his shortcomings as a father and a husband. Elena bares all as she reveals her past jealousies and fears to Reed. The two help each other see life in a different light and reconnect through the joyful pain that comes with opening old wounds.
The script itself is sharp and entertaining, with some hilarious one-liners and interesting layers. It also builds well off traditional male-female dynamics, making audience members recall fights they may have had with a partner.
While Reed is the calm, put-together man, Elena is all over the place, spouting advice and using the airport — and Reed's abused cell phone — like her personal playground, always seeking out some form of entertainment.
For example, upon first seeing his ex-flame, Reed tries his best to hide, dispassionately telling the audience that Elena "really let herself go." Meanwhile, Elena is prancing about the stage, attempting to appear profound and beautiful by practicing yoga in the middle of the airport, trying to get Reed's attention without his knowing.
At times, though, this trope can be a bit overbearing. We all have sat through films or plays or read books about the archetypal "taming of the shrew." When one of these is crafted in such black-and-white terms, the story gets old very fast.
This problem is not helped by Williamson's tendency to overact her already flamboyant character, making her seem more like a personality than a person. Conversely, McAllister's deadpanning of the script with little emotion leaves his character flat and one-dimensional.
The best moments in the drama unfold when the couple speak directly to the audience. In these moments, the emotion really does come through, and viewers get a chance to connect with the couple.
"Shooting Star" is about the coincidences and near misses that make life worthwhile and about the fear of trusting someone else completely. Deitz's conception could have been fun and entertaining, but, like the drug-addled Elena who "still can't forget anything," viewers may find themselves wishing they could wipe the nauseating performances from their memory. But as Reed says, "Those little plastic bottles do come in handy."
"Shooting Star" runs at Trinity Rep (201 Washington St.) through Nov. 22.