|John Lina & Aria Bailey in Becky’s New Car.
Photo – Little Colonel Playhouse.
Becky’s New Car
By Steven Dietz
Directed by Jeff Mangum
Reviewed by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2013 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
As the titular character explains at the beginning, “… When a woman says she wants a new house, she really wants a new husband; and when she says she wants a new car, she really means she wants a new life.” So Becky’s New Car is a tale of mid-life crisis from a distaff perspective. The pattern is familiar: grown son, questioning of both the marriage and the career. An itch that has to be scratched.
It is a comedic examination of one woman’s journey into adventure that includes deceit and infedility, which makes Becky, on paper at least, a somewhat less-than-sympathetic character. But the quick-witted dialogue and a performance of great charm from Aria Bailey allow the audience to engage with the character in a meaningful way.
The first act moves at a leisurely pace that gently introduces us to Becky’s whimsical skepticism about how unsatisfied she is with her life. Her genial husband, Joe (Tom Dunbar), seems oblivious to the growing distance; and her 26-year-old son Chris (Anthony Chaffin) is a psychology major who has no immediate plans to leave home. When a suave widower named Walter (John Lina) steps into the car dealership where Becky works to buy nine cars as employee bonuses, a slight misunderstanding leads to a new romantic relationship in her life.
Although the cast delivers good work here, there are some fumbled lines and dropped cues that, curiously, reinforce a certain shaggy-dog quality to the playing that informs the humor and empathy. The script has Becky deliver narration directly to the audience and employs several moments of audience interaction, such as when two women are recruited to assist Becky in an onstage costume change. The consistent breaking of the “fourth wall” establishes an intimate relationship with the audience that invites a unique level of identification. It makes the ragged edges seem more naturalistic yet never sacrifices the sure-fire laughs that arrive at a steady pace.
The second act complications do strain the production, as the level of coincidence and turnabout mount at a rapid pace. But that shaggy charm wins the day and keeps the audience fully involved to the end. Aside from the aformentioned principals, Jane Mattingly and Teresa Wentzel deliver sparkling support as Walter’s daughter Kenni and family friend Ginger, respectively. Charles Wade is very funny as Steve, a car salesman who works with Becky, although he is the one member of the cast guilty of chewing a little scenery.
The settings are more spare than what we are used to seeing at Little Colonel, but effective enough, with the modest stage allowing three separate locations and travel time in an automobile.
In the end, the plot interjects some more serious notes that remind us of the personal responsibility that comes from the type of choices that Becky makes – a bracing but minimal bit of balance to the levity that gives this winning comedy a little more meat on the bone than one might expect.
Becky’s New Car
June 13, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 27 at 8 p.m.
June 16 and 23 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for Adults; $12 for Seniors (60+) and students. Reservations strongly recommended by calling 588-1557.
LCP does NOT accept credit cards, so please come prepared.
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt. Mercy Drive
Crestwood, KY 40014