Audience members viewing Steven Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts on opening night seemed more than happy to go along for the ride.
And for the most part it was an enjoyable ride at that.
The Black Box Theater was the perfect venue for this show, which has its title character talking as much to the audience as she does to her fellow performers.
Susan Sard White plays Becky Foster, a woman who has an okay job at a car dealership, who comes home every night to her okay house that has a leaky roof, her okay 20-something son who still lives at home, and her okay husband who is nice, but after 28 years of marriage, not that exciting.
Becky’s life is cruising along on auto pilot when one night at closing time, into the dealership comes wealthy widower Walter Flood (Norbert Brown) who mistakes Becky for a widow and a kindred spirit and when she doesn’t assertively correct him, he proceeds to ask her out.
How Becky finds herself in an affair and living a double life (she seems as surprised about the whole thing as we are) and how she manages to keep her two lives separate (until she doesn’t) makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking three-quarters of the play. In the last quarter the plot started to seem forced, as if the playwright had written himself into a corner and was trying too hard to tie up loose ends.
“Becky’s New Car” was written by Mr. Dietz at the request of a Seattle businessman who commissioned the play as a gift for his wife’s birthday and so, even if the play felt muddled at the end, it’s way better than flowers.
As Becky, Ms. White is straightforward and no-nonsense. While it may be easy to believe some people (housewives on a certain street, or daytime soap stars) might engage in affairs, it’s hard to believe that this sensible woman does and yet Ms. White makes it believable.
Robert Bock plays Joe; Becky’s likable, nice-guy husband who is so helpful he practically encourages (albeit unwillingly) the affair.
As Becky and Joe’s son, Chris, who suffers from a failure to launch, Jay Fry is also likable and funny in his desire to find a girlfriend with a rich inner life who isn’t all “lipstick and spandex.” That girlfriend turns out to be Kenni (Laura Shea).
Norbert Brown plays Walter Flood, the middle-aged millionaire who can’t navigate his daily life in the absence of his late wife. Walter is correct when he observes wryly that “things narrow as we get older, the unexpected fades away.” As Walter, Mr. Brown is sincere and eager to please, although not exactly in tune with what’s going on around him.
what: Becky’s New Car
where: Cotuit Center for the Arts
when: Through May 25, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM.
how: Box office: 508-428-0669 or www.cotuitcenterforthearts.org
The play is under the direction of Carol McManus. The stage is minimal; a couch represents Becky and Joe’s house, a desk for the car dealership, Ms. White mimes driving when she’s in her car. Minimal sets are important when you’ve got more than a handful of people on stage in the tight quarters of the Black Box. Director McManus does a good job of orchestrating the movements of the seven actors in the play.
While the main conflict is between Becky and her conscience, subplots involve Chris, Becky and Joe’s son, and his new girlfriend and even smaller subplots involving Becky’s emotional tree-hugging co-worker Steve (Scott McGraw) and Ginger (Karen Santos), a middle-aged single woman whose trust funds have run out.
The play makes for an entertaining evening out. It’s lighthearted but with a serious, what would you do in that situation, undertone. Perfect for jump-starting the conversation after the house lights have come up.