Photo By Elisabeth Ross
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.