‘Becky’s New Car’ fun but predictable at North Coast Rep
By Carol Davis
SOLANA BEACH, California —Becky’s New Car, the play by Steven Dietz, is probably newer than the car our heroine Becky Foster (Carla Harting makes the tale convincing) gets from her boss as a perk for selling more cars in one night than the other salesperson at her dealership, Steve (Mueen Jahan), has sold in probably one month.
Well, maybe not. The play first went into rehearsals in 2009 but the idea was inspired when theatre enthusiast Charles Staadecker, as a birthday present for his wife Benita’s 60th birthday, wanted to commission a play as a birthday surprise. Staadecker, whose wife was a former Seattle ACT board member, approached the board to measure their interest in a new play. Fast forward, Dietz was approached and the rest, they say is history.
Becky’s New Car now being mounted on the North Coast Repertory stage has been produced only eleven times according to artistic director and director of this production David Ellenstein. It’s a quirky piece that weaves in and out of situations that at times get sidetracked and oft derailed because too much is going on for this little piece. It could substitute as a sit COM with at least five or so episodes in this two act play alone.
Our heroine if you will, 40 something year old Becky, and her husband Joe (Nicolas Glaeser is appealing and easy) and their son Chris (Kevin Koppman-Gue) appear to be a pleasant enough family unit. As mentioned earlier Becky sells cars as well as manages the office at the dealership, Joe is a roofing contractor and 26-year-old Chris (still living at home) is a psych major.
Funny thing happens one night when Becky is working late at the dealership; business tycoon and widower Walter Flood (Mark Pinter) appears out of nowhere (I must add a grey Fox worthy of a second look) wanting to buy a bunch of new cars as gifts for his employees. After she completes the sale, she gets a new car as a bonus from her boss and Walter is smitten.
One thing leads to another. Walter thinks Becky is either divorced or widowed just because the conversation veers that way. He then proceeds to woo her and she buys right into it by allowing him his assumptions. I can’t say that I blame her.
Walter is verrrry good looking, rich, suave and quite charming. And…she needs a little away time from good ol’ Joe, just because it’s a chance for something different, new car, etc, etc. No harm intended, just a change of pace from her sameness and hey, it’s a free ride for the time being. Who can it hurt if no one finds out?
Earth to Becky watch out for mine fields!!!!!!!!!
The whole first act builds as the two become telephone friends, Steve kvetches on Becky’s shoulder about the loss of his wife, Joe is off and busy with his roofing business and Chris psychobabbles throughout. Becky goes back and forth from home to the dealership as she chats with the audience and the lighting crew (Matt Novotny) telling them/us where she is headed. Breaking that fourth wall interrupts and prolongs the momentum of a play that really doesn’t need any more distractions.
The desk of the dealership and that of the Foster living room (Marty Burnett) are steps away from each other and when she’s not busy working at the dealership and trying to balance both her worlds, like her making excuses to both her husband and her co worker for her absences, she’s getting deeper and deeper involved with the infatuated Walter who thinks he has a chance with her.
Things get more complicated before they get ironed out in act two. Suddenly Chris has a mysterious girlfriend, Kensington (Stacey Hardke is sharp as a tack) who paces him in her car while he runs for exercise and Walter’s bitter friend and ex wealthy socialite, Ginger (Glynn Bedington is at her wittiest best here) shows up competing for his attention.
Bedington’s character Ginger adds some much needed down to earth cynicism, a little funny edge and comic relief to otherwise predictable situations and she does it like an expert.
Both muddle the picture and maybe add a few question marks, but it’s all done according to formula. As complicated as the situations these characters create, they are kind of red herrings in the scheme of things that follow. It’s no secret that all will end well. What surprises is Joe’s attitude. For that little nugget, Dietz takes the road less traveled.
Considering the convincing acting of the cast, some funny situations here and there and Ellenstein’s gentle direction, Becky’s New Car, is just another mid life crisis, funny but OK play that would do best on TV.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: September 4th- 26th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Ste d, Solana Beach, Ca
Ticket Prices: $30. -$47.00
Theatre critic Davis is based in San Diego