Becky’s New Car
by Steven Dietz Directed by Jeanette Mason
Reviewed by Wayne Erreca (5-3-15)
In 1998, Actor/Director Roberto Benigni gloriously proved that almost any social subject known to mankind could be framed within a comedic perspective. Benigni’s marvelous direction and heartwarming performance of a father and young son confined in a World War II Nazi Concentration Camp landed him the Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant motion picture Life is Beautiful. Many critics congratulated his creative courage for daring to walk this very sensitive high wire act, which could have easily brought scathing reviews and an end to his career. This delicate balance between the monstrous Nazi catastrophe and his soulful and comedic venture in keeping his beloved son alive was absolute perfection.
Playwright Steven Dietz had a similar experience writing his comedic Becky’s New Car. His core perspective centers on the infidelity of a married woman, Becky Foster (Debbie Hershey) of 28 years to her loyal, hard working roofer husband, Joe Foster (Dan Farkas), and her secretive affair with Billboard Baron Millionaire Walter Flood (Steve Morse). By no means does Dietz’s subject matter measure equally with Benigni’s depiction of the Jewish Holocaust, like measuring a flea with an elephant, but infidelity within marriage is still considered, by many, as a deplorable behavior, worthy of shunning the guilty offender. He found a humorous thread to weave in this witty, funny, high wire journey, by an average working American housewife who foolishly ventures away from her true love, only to later realize what she has shared for 28 years is worth keeping. The comparison between Benigni’s Life is Beautiful and Dietz’s Becky’s New Car depend on finding success in that perfect balance between hilarious comedy, and heart-warming drama. The danger in these types of productions is when comedy and drama lose their perfect balance, failing to support one another, and unintentionally upstaging the other. The laugh should never stray too far from the heart.
Deitz structured his comedy by removing the fourth wall between Becky and her audience. This enables her to intimately confide her rhymes and reasons, and to encourage them to walk in her shoes, as she meekly wades into her adulterous affair. Becky works long hours at a car dealership, where she first meets Walter. He wants to purchase numerous cars for gifts to his employees and in their brief conversation he assumes she’s a widow. He too recently lost his wife making it a perfect opportunity for a new match. Instead, of correcting this obvious err; she decides to pursue and fill the nagging vacuum in her life.
Sharing in her mid-life-escapade is her peace loving son, Chris (Dane Moeggenberg), who is attending college as a psychology major, and to complicate his mother’s secretive endeavors, Chris soon begins dating Kensington Flood (Naomi Tatro), who happens to be Walter’s daughter. While at work Becky is forced to listen to her boisterous and paranoid co-worker, Steve (Ed Mulcahy), who eventually becomes suspicious of her extracurricular weekend activities. While spending time at Walter’s fabulous residence, Becky hobnobs with, Ginger (Clover Key Roy), one of his familiar party girls. The frantic pace between keeping a clean home, working long hours at the car dealership, and smooching at the Flood mansion, Becky has a lot of explaining to do, but as with most stealthy affairs, the slithering cracks of light eventually come bursting through the dark veil.
Director Jeanette Mason has a wonderful cast. Debbie Hershey (Becky) is bright, energetic, and engagingly talented. She’ll have you hanging on her every word. Dan Farkas (Joe) has to be the handsomeness roofer ever stepping foot on stage and has a million dollar smile, making you wonder whatever got into Becky’s head to wander so far. Dane Moeggenberg (Chris) is perfect as Becky’s high-minded son, bringing a solidly mature portrayal. Steve Morse (Walter) is nicely anchored to the heart of his character, finding the proper balance between the farcical, and dramatic. Ed Mulchay (Steve) is maniacally smooth-tongued and laughingly paranoid, deserving a month long vacation, and will have you smiling. Clover Key Roy (Ginger) fits perfectly in any mansion setting with the right posture, high brow, and dainty grip on a Cabernet Sauvignon long stem glass. She’s the finishing touch to any party.
Kudos to the staff: Elizabeth Stewart (Assistant Director),June Neal and Peg Brace (Producers), Denni Don Hunting (Stage Manager), Kerr Anderson (Set Design), Diane Hubert (Costumes), Eddie Blackburn (Light Design), Gary Bolton (Sound Design), and the many others who threw their hats into the ring.
Steven Deitz was commissioned to write this play by an ACT Board Member, Charlie Staadecker, and once it was completed he presented it in honor to Charlie’s wife, Benita. I find this quite amusing, for judging its content; I would love to know what her first thoughts were after reading he’s finished script of Becky’s New Car. I’m confident that all had a good laugh!
If your marriage is stale as cracker dust and your significant other has become more like a forgotten bother, Becky’s New Car is just what you need in your life. As the old saying goes, “It’s not always greener on the other side.” Trust me, a theatre ticket is cheaper than child support, and alimony.