Review: Becky Shaw at Big Idea Theatre

Becky Shaw: Thu 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, one 2pm Sunday performance on February 11. Through February 17; $12-$22; Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036;
Rated 3.0

The title character of playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw doesn’t even make her appearance until halfway through this dark comedy of family, death, marriage and dating. And when she finally does, she’s not quite the heroic figure who will be diving in to fix things. Instead, Becky is just one more swimmer in a pool of emotional messes.

Now at Big Idea Theatre, Becky Shaw is a fascinating, though sometimes frustrating, look into murky human dynamics—with surprising twists.Sometimes, however, less would be more.

We first meet the family as two siblings—Suzanna (Amber Lucito) and Max (Dan Featherston)—talk about their father’s recent death. We find out Max is not a blood son, but was given shelter with the family as a teenager. Enter mother Susan (Shelly Russel Riley), not packing soothing support, instead armed with discord.

Along he way come family interlopers: Suzanna’s new husband Andrew (Brennan Villados) and Max’s blind date Becky (Janey Pintar).

Director Elise Hodge keeps the action and intrigue on point, bringing out strong performances from her cast. The standout is Featherston, who masterfully plays a true Machiavellian, ethics and empathy thrown aside, a role that could easily be overplayed. Featherston keeps his Max in check.

The production design handles the many location changes with a clever multilevel stage, though there are a couple long set changes that disrupt the rhythm and pace of the story—a story that holds together while everyone is falling apart.