Keegan-Michael Key’s Broadway Début

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Spare a thought, in these enraging times, for Luther, Barack Obama’s “anger translator.” As embodied by Keegan-Michael Key, on the Comedy Central sketch show “Key & Peele,” Luther gave voice to the coolheaded President’s inner fury over everything from the Tea Party (“Oh, don’t even get me started on these motherfuckers”) to birtherism (“I have a hot-diggity-doggity-mamase-mamasa-mamakusa birth certificate, you dumb-ass crackers!”). One imagines him spending the Trump years climbing up walls and foaming at the mouth.

Since “Key & Peele” ended, in 2015, Key and his comedy partner, Jordan Peele, have both gone on to formidable careers of their own. Peele wrote and directed the genre-busting satirical horror film “Get Out,” while Key, who has an M.F.A. in drama from Penn State, has returned to his theatrical roots. “My girlfriend said one day, ‘If you had no excuses about why you couldn’t do something, what would you want to do?’ ” he recalled recently. “And I said, ‘I would want to do Jason Bourne, and I would want to do Shakespeare.’ ” This past summer, he took care of the Shakespeare part, playing Horatio to Oscar Isaac’s Hamlet—speaking of someone who could use an anger translator—in Sam Gold’s experimental production, at the Public Theatre. Jason Bourne is still on the bucket list.

In the meantime, Key is making his Broadway début, in “Meteor Shower” (starting previews Nov. 1, at the Booth), a comedy by Steve Martin that combines marital friction with astronomical calamity. Key plays Gerald, a bombastic know-it-all whom he describes as “a bit of a vocal bull in a china shop.” He stars alongside Amy Schumer, who also made her name in sketch comedy, as well as the theatrical ringers Laura Benanti and Jeremy Shamos. They play a pair of couples in Ojai, California, who get together and watch a celestial event, until their “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”-esque squabbling tilts into absurdist fantasy.

A veteran of Second City, Key has an improviser’s gift for making things work on the spot. But Broadway offers something else: time for fine-tuning, here under the direction of Jerry Zaks (“Hello, Dolly!”). “There are moments where Jerry says things like ‘Sweetheart, now say the line, then sit down, then turn your head’—which we don’t have time to do on television,” Key said. “In a play, you get to sculpt the moments. The moments are wrought. And that’s probably the biggest difference, which is something that Amy and I both adore. We get more time to achieve the comedy. It’s not microwaved comedy. It’s nice, slow, baked-in-the-oven comedy.” ♦