Rob Otrembiak lobbied hard to land a role in the Majestic Reader's Theater production of "Shooting Star" in part because the play "speaks to where I am in my life."
And he suspects Steven Dietz's bittersweet romantic comedy will speak to other audience members.
The play from the prolific Dietz (he also wrote "Becky's New Car," which was produced in the mid-valley a few years ago) has a simple plotline: Two college lovers, Elena Carson (Chris Kastet) and Reed McAllister (Otrembiak), are unexpectedly reunited when they're snowed in at an airport in middle America.
Elena has stayed true to her counterculture past, while Reed has wound up in the corporate world. Their night at the airport starts with laughter, banter and reminiscence — and ends with a number of surprises.
"It's a story I do believe everyone can relate to," Otrembiak said. What if you see an old lover at an airport? "Would you hide behind a stack of mugs at Starbucks?"
Or would you, as Reed and Elena do, launch into a long evening of conversation? It starts with small talk, Otrembiak said, but Elena pushes it deeper: "Elena is challenging him to have a real conversation."
The result, Otrembiak said: "You have this peeling back of the layers they both project of the other person."
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The play also has a touch of Sartre's "No Exit" about it, in that it features two characters who can't get away from each other — at least as long as the snow is falling.
It's also hilarious in spots, Otrembiak said, with wistful and heartbreaking moments in others.
Reader's Theatre veteran Leigh Matthews Bock directs the show, but it was an unexpected twist in Otrembiak's life that provided the production's biggest challenge: He recently accepted a job with the state of Washington that required him to move to Olympia.
That obviously cut into rehearsal time, but Otrembiak and Kastet have compensated in other ways: He said the two spend considerable time texting each other about their characters and their relationship.
"Shooting Star" is well-suited for the Reader's Theatre format, Otrembiak said.
"This play is better suited to a smaller room," he said. "It's just two people. ... For a brief period of time, you're really drawn into an intimate story."