Becky’s New Car
An unlikely but interesting road
|Steel Beam Theatre presents|
|Becky’s New Car|
Review by Leah Zeldes
Patricia Finn-Morris is simply marvelous in the title role of Steel Beam Theatre’s Becky’s New Car. The 2008 comedy by Steven Dietz follows the inner yearnings of Becky, a middle-aged, middle-class woman with a clerical job in an auto dealership; an affectionate but unexciting marriage to a roofer; and a 26-year-old son who still lives at home.
From the start of the show, when she comes out holding a plunger and a roll of toilet paper and matter-of-factly asks an audience member to put the roll in the bathroom, Finn-Morris holds the audience — or at least every woman over 40 — in the palm of her hand.
Becky Foster is everywoman: down-to-earth, salt of the earth, juggling job and home and family, having a little trouble keeping all the plates in the air, wondering, "Is this all there is?" and yearning for something more. A new car becomes the metaphor for a new life.
Yet Becky has it better than most. Her job may not be glamorous, but at least she has a job, and so does her hard-working husband, Joe, a nice performance by Joe Billquist. Becky’s husband and her grad-student son, played with humorous intensity by Jonathan Crabtree, may not always treat her with utmost veneration, but they’re all on warm and easy terms. No fighting, not even any serious bickering. In fact, the one thing Joe gets on Becky’s case about is overworking. In these times, it’s harder to sympathize with Becky’s plight than it might have been in, say, the prosperous 1990s.
So we’re a little less pleased for Becky than we might be when a white knight shows up, prepared to take her away from her humdrum life. That’s Walter Flood, a millionaire and recent widower, bereft without his late wife. Jim Quan is effectively ineffectual as this unlikely rich man. Walter meets Becky at the auto dealership and falls hard. He assumes she’s a widow, and although at first she makes a token effort to disabuse him of the notion, she soon gives up trying.
What a temptation! Could any woman resist? Should she or shouldn’t she? Should she have an affair? Should she leave Joe for Walter? We find out Becky’s choice in Act II – a choice that’s not very probable, either, but Finn-Morris pulls it off well. It’s only in retrospect that one starts to think about how improbable it all is.
Director Marge Uhlarik-Boller and Steel Beam have done a fine job with staging. Becky moves back and forth between her home, her office and her car, all onstage at once. Rounding out the cast, Tony Lage plays Steve, a neurotic schlimazel of a car salesman; Ellen Daschler is Ginger, a friend of the Floods; and Cady Leinicke portrays Walter’s daughter, Kenni.
I found Becky’s decisions both disappointing and, ultimately, unrealistic, which puts a damper on the second act, but overall, Becky’s New Car is an interesting and unusual comedy. Part of the play’s charm is the way the characters routinely break the third wall. Throughout, Becky, and later, Joe, address the audience directly and conversationally, even handing things to people in the first row. It adds a very intimate feel, especially in Steel Beam’s already cozy theater.
Becky’s New Car continues through April 7th at Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main Street, St. Charles (map), with performances Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $23-$25, and are available by phone (630-587-8521) or online through TicketTurtle.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SteelBeamTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
behind the scenes
Marge Uhlarik-Boller (director); Erin Cauley (stage manager, props, sound); Jeff Goins (assistant stage manager); Donna Steele (producer, props, technician); Jim Van de Velde (lighting designer); Brian Maxfield (set designer); Jim Quan (sound); Kim Maslo (sound, technician).