OTHER REVIEWS OF THIS PRODUCTION
Review: 'Becky's New Car' an enjoyable ride Drew Sterwald for the News-Press
IF YOU GO
What: Unassuming, unappreciated middle-aged Becky starts leading a double life with her husband - and the exotic man of her dreams
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Dec. 17
Where: Foulds Theater at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts complex, 10091 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers
Cost: $18; $10 for students
Information: 239-936-3239 or theatreconspiracy.org
Something Else: Some audience participation - so sit in the front or the edges if you want to go onto the stage.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
Theatre Conspiracy kicks the tires on one of the hottest new plays in America through Dec. 17. Lauren Drexler takes over-worked and dispirited Becky Foster (and the audience) on a bold, exciting and inspiring drive during the heartbreakingly honest "Becky's New Car."
Seattle real estate broker Charles Staadecker commissioned the play as a gift for his wife's 60th birthday. Seattle's ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) approached Steven Dietz to write the play. "Becky's New Car" premiered in 2008; becoming a major hit on the regional theater circuit, with 22 productions planned within the next 15 months.
As one character says in the play, "When a woman says she needs new shoes, what she really wants is a new job ... when she says she wants a new car, she want a new life." Becky - trapped in a dead-end job shuffling paperwork and with a family that doesn't quite appreciate her - most definitely wants a new car. Probably a convertible, red, with leather seats and "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" playing on the radio.
When a fabulously wealthy widower swans into the car dealership where she works late one night, Becky becomes Rebecca - and "forgets" to mention that her own husband isn't dead. A romance - or rather, an affair - is born. The show paves a freeway through the mind of everyone who's flirted with the idea of getting in the car, driving away and starting over. What happens though - when you have to pay the toll?
Drexler - last seen in the title role in "Medea" - uses her enormous charm and wide smile to great benefit. She jump-starts the play's long opening monologue with a DustBuster in one hand and a toilet plunger in the other - yet appears as if she's effortlessly serving cocktails in an elegant drawing room.
The actress flits from cluttered office to messy living room to millionaire's terrace with ease; you'll love Bill Taylor's simple, yet smart tripartite set and the whiplash transitions. (Sample: "Can I go home?" Lights down on the office, up on the living room, with Becky sinking into the couch.) She makes having an affair looks so fun, so easy - until suddenly, it isn't. That's when you find out what happens to Becky's new car.
Gene Krupp shines as schlumpy everyman Joe Foster, Becky's "real," very alive husband. Clad in an old tee, battered jeans and rumpled hair (or fuzzy pajamas) he hits every note perfectly. Krupp radiates such honesty that its hard to root against him. Asked if he'd want to know if his wife was having a fling, even if it "meant nothing," Joe says that he'd want to know immediately - "So I could kill the guy." Look too for Martin Hastings as a car salesman with a tragic past - and a few hippie granola leanings.
Stephen Hooper's amiable directing style underlines the emotion and relationships in the piece. I wish the comedy had been punched up a little though. Pacing stays strong and the play's many audience participation moments are handled gracefully with the addition of steps up to the Foulds stage.
I understand the realities of community theater casting, but Scott Thomson never connects as billboard advertising magnate Walter Flood - the man who sweeps Becky off her feet and into a brand new life. There's just no chemistry with Drexler - and the play's central premise is built on their character's whirlwind romance. Thomson is a fine actor - just wrong for this role. Look for the darkly funny scene he shares with Krupp where the two men in Becky's life finally meet - and call her on each other's cell phones; it is a highlight of the second half.
Take "Becky's New Car" for a test drive. The marvelous, funny, witty and oh-so-bad Becky herself Lauren Drexler juggles paperwork, plungers, husbands, lovers and lies with delightful, beguiling ease.
Radio on. Traffic moving, nice and easy... Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.