If we only knew then what we know now, would it make any difference? Shooting Star wrestles with the question while indulging 1970s nostalgia, making for a pleasant evening at the City Theatre.
Director Tracy Brigden gently tugs at the necessary heartstrings without veering into sentimentality or losing the comic pacing in Stephen Dietz's 2008 romantic comedy about the unexpected reunion of two long-separated lovers.
In soliloquies and one-way cell-phone conversations, as well as dialogue, Reed (Andrew May) and Elena (Laurie Klatscher) review and revisit the 22 months they lived together more than 30 years ago. It was a very different age, and so were they.
College students, they explored the so-called new freedoms of the "me decade" while sorting through the dreams of youth. Now older, if not necessarily wiser, the pair scratch at old scars while reawakening their feelings for each other and for the pop culture of the '70s. They don't quite do a full wallow in nostalgia, but they get close. And so do Reed and Elena as they fill in -- and nearly close -- the decades-old gap.
The casting is perfect. Klatscher starts with Elena as the flower child who never grew up, and shapes her into a woman grappling both with the disappointments of age and the weight of maturity. An independent and still strong-spirited woman, Elena has never married. The playwright has her explain that she's become "too interesting," i.e. too much herself, to get a man. (I couldn't help but remember a biography of the late Molly Ivins, A Rebel Life, saying pretty much the same thing about the famed Texas writer's single status.)
Meanwhile, Andrew May flawlessly captures the tight-ass Reed, flailing in his career and failing in his family, but still a fighter. He has rejected much of his youth, though he retains more of it than a love of J.J. Cale. It's interesting to contrast his reaction to the infidelities -- real or imagined -- of his wife and those of his former lover. But Reed has grown up, not just older, and he matures even more after the night of memories, revelations and resolutions.
The intimacy of the City's black-box Hamburg Studio is enhanced by set designer Tony Ferrieri's spot-on anonymous Midwestern airport, made appropriately drearier with Brad Peterson's sound design and Allen Hahn's lighting. Angela M. Vesco captures the characters via costume. (Elena's skirt is so scarily New Age.)
Shooting Star continues through May 16. Lester Hamburg Studio, City Theatre, Bingham at 13th Street, South Side. 412-431-2489 or citytheatrecompany.org