Sunday, May 11, 2014

Becky's New Car Spins Its Wheels

By Andrew Juhl
Photo By Elisabeth Ross

Carole Martin
Iowa City - Becky works hard, and liking her comes easy. In Act 1, anyway. In Act 2… no so much. She’s a woman with a good life that she doesn’t fully appreciate. She’s overly stressed and exasperated, but once she relaxes and begins to enjoy herself, life opens up for her, drops possibilities into her lap, and complicates her relationships to degrees she would have never imagined before loosening her safety belts.

Steven Dietz, the show’s writer, instructs the character of Becky to speak directly to the audience, a routine breaking of the fourth wall that could be either obnoxious or enjoyable, depending on the actress. Luckily for Dreamwell's production, Carole Martin (Becky) is a fantastically pleasant and identifiable confederate with which the audience is allowed to interact. Her stress is palpable, as are her concerns, consternations, and vacillations.

Not as believable, however, is Becky’s extramarital attraction to Walter, played by Dennis Aska. Aska plays his character with an eccentricity that toes the line of creepiness, but it works well given his mannerisms and delivery. Regardless, there is no moment in the play where Aska or Martin ever believably convey to the audience that there exists any true desire between these characters—romantic, sexual, or otherwise. It turns what should be a likeable, identifiable character into someone whose choices and actions the audience begins to detest.

This failing breeds further audience disregard into nearly all the other relationships of the story. Because the audience is never really all that concerned, vested, or believing in Becky’s wishy-washy philandering, it remains hard to give credence to the idea that there’s any concern for her marriage to Joe (Dennis Lambing); and if this primary relationship doesn’t seem at stake, the secondary relationships—such as those with her son (Spencer Loucks) and coworker (Monty Beal)—are little more than fluffy afterthoughts. This is sad, because both Loucks and Beal have some of the best lines (and best deliveries) of the entire night, and I feel the laughs could have been more boisterous and more frequent if the time between them was fraught with greater tension.

The show’s free-flowing, somewhat manic pace could present a challenge to many directors, but the designed set and stage was expertly utilized by Brian Tanner. Despite a small, cluttered set, the night’s situations and rolling action never seemed too tangled or untidy.

Finally, there seemed to be a lot of line-searching in the evening. This might be a personal peeve, but almost nothing takes me out of the moment as much as when I can tell an actor is actively searching their brain for the correct next line of dialogue. Sometimes actors can feign occasional brainfarts as a character idiosyncrasy, but the evening was chock-a-block with moments where I could tell the people on stage simply didn’t have their lines suitably memorized, and that was disappointing.

Overall, I think Becky's New Car is an enjoyable comedy; however, this production would have benefited greatly from some additional rehearsal time. There were some truly enjoyable, laugh-out-loud moments, but the space between them might be a little too far for most audience members to drive.

Becky's New Car runs one more weekend, May 16 & 17 at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information here.


Mary Myers said...

I enjoyed the show very much and returned the next night with friends. They also commented that the relationship between Walter and Becky was not believable. I responded "exactly, how brilliant". How often do we see a man have a mid-life affair without attraction? Walter just happened to come along. This is a show about good decisions and bad decisions during times of vulnerability. Becky was void of something within herself. Instead of going back to school, volunteering, finding God or a host of other better decisions for her and her family she chose to get in her car and board that ferry. This was not about desire for Walter or his money. Played any other way would have made Becky frivolous. This was a woman searching. It is a very funny show wrapped up in messy life. The ending was lovely and refreshing. Go see it! I thought the comedic timing was spot on!

Susie Burns said...

My husband and I went to "Becky's New Car", which is a play we had never heard of before. From the opening scene to the surprise ending, it is filled with twists and turns, touching on every emotion, heavy on the humor. We laughed, we laughed a lot! The audience was engaged in the action from start to finish. The cast played their roles so well that this well written script seemed natural as they delivered their lines. Carole Martin won over the audience from the start and even when "Becky" made some bad choices, she was still a lovable character, displayed by the standing ovation. Thank you to the cast and Dreamwell for introducing us to "Becky's New Car"! We are coming back next weekend with a group because we loved it so much!