Middle-aged angst takes center stage at the Sonoma Community Center as Becky’s New Car pulls into Sonoma Arts Live. Steven Dietz’s bittersweet comedy runs through June 25.
Becky Foster has reached the “Is that all there is?” stage in her life. She’s got a job that overworks her, co-workers that don’t appreciate her and a grown, psychology-majoring son living in her basement. On the plus side, she has a loving, doting husband who’s willing to work roofing jobs hours away to keep his family in comfort. Becky seems destined to live her life out in quiet desperation when a gentleman walks into the car dealership at which she works. He’s wealthy, widowed and in a very short period of time, interested in Becky. Through a series of misunderstandings, he thinks Becky’s widowed too. Does she correct him, or will she see this as her way out? Well, good people sometimes make bad choices and Becky is soon looking for a way out of her way out.
Lest you think this all sounds a bit bleak and/or depressing, fear not as it’s actually a pretty funny show. Director Carl Jordan has gathered a winning cast who find the humor in each character’s foibles and flaws while retaining their humanity. Melissa Claire does a great job in helping the audience understand why Becky makes the choices she does and gains their empathy. Dietz has the character “break the fourth wall” and directly interact with the audience throughout the show which can be awkward but Claire handles it with aplomb.
Mike Pavone as Walter Flood makes for a charming gentleman suitor who stumbles upon Becky and maybe a way out of his funk at the loss of his wife. It’s easy to see why Becky could risk everything for him. Matt Witthaus does very well as the good-hearted husband Joe whose obliging manner turns a bit a dark by show’s end. Michael Temple does a good job as the basement-dwelling, pizza swilling Chris who pontificates on the psychological state of all and drives his mother nuts.
Katie Kelly has some nice moments as Kenni Flood, Walter’s daughter, particularly when dealing with a potential gold-digging neighbor (a boozy and biting Serena Elize Flores). The show’s single funniest moment comes courtesy of Stephen Dietz (no relation to the playwright) as Becky’s co-worker Steve in a monologue that involves a mother, a child, a puppy, and a cliff.
It’s not giving anything away to say that all these characters cross paths and while the specific circumstances strain credulity sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Claire’s and Pavone’s performances are the initial hooks that make you willing to go along for the ride.
Set Designer Bruce Lackovic manages to fit four distinct settings onto the small Rotary Stage, with Becky scurrying between her living room, her office, her car, and Walter’s home. The backdrop is a series of lit, colorful spheres that double as projection screens. Combined it makes for a very eye-catching set.
Becky’s New Car is a welcome respite from some of the darker, more mean-spirited plays that have been produced locally of late. It’s nice to see a lighter touch applied to the dramatization of the journeys we often take in life.
Director Carl Jordan and cast have mapped out a pretty amusing outing. Consider jumping into Becky’s New Car and joining them for the ride.
Becky’s New Car plays at the Sonoma Community Center Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm through June 25.
For more information, go to sonomaartslive.org