Time for a tuneup
Becky’s New Car
Sacramento, CA 95814
Life is on cruise control for Becky Foster: Job? Check. Marriage? Check. Motherhood? Check. Satisfaction?
Ah, now that may need a check up. Or a tuneup. Soon.
With life’s daily frustrations closing in on her, Becky is slowly realizing her autopilot life is actually stalled, and her get-up-and-go has got up and went.
B Street Theatre describes the Becky of their newest production, Becky’s New Car, as “a woman caught in middle age, middle management and a middling marriage.” Nothing is extremely bad, nothing extremely good, just the mundane minutes of everyday life tinged with what-ifs and what-nows—all the makings of a midlife crisis.
Becky (Elisabeth Nunziato) works at a local car dealership, comes home to her stable, predictable husband, Joe, and her basement-dwelling graduate-school son, Chris. Becky doesn’t even know that she’s looking for a shake-up until a mysterious millionaire enters her life and puts her on a road filled with unexpected detours, offramps, onramps and redirections.
Becky’s New Car is playwright Steven Dietz’s latest light-and-dark comedy, filled with quick wit and quick dialogue that takes an unexpected serious turn in the second act. Local productions of Dietz’s work showcased some of the same mix of comedy and drama—Fiction, produced last month at Capital Stage, and Lonely Planet at California Stage a couple of years back.
Though mostly the blend of funny and serious works, there is some tonal disconnect in Becky’s New Car between the two acts, where the mood change in the second half is jarring at times, begging for more of the clever wit witnessed in Act 1. Sometimes it feels like two different plays.
However, Becky’s New Car is a sweet comedy mixed in with the pathos of living that showcases the evolution of a person, a marriage and a life, all perfectly presented by a great cast of B Street regulars. Thanks to the light comedic touch of Nunziato (who breaks down the fourth wall by interplaying with audience members, even giving them tasks to do), Becky’s New Car has an old-fashioned comedy-of-manners feel about it, even when the manners are mismanaged.
Dietz provides great one-liners and give-and-take repartees that carry the play even during dark subject matters, especially the delicate dance of grief. He even takes unsympathetic moments and sprinkles them with humanity.
Under the deft direction of Michael Stevenson, the supportive cast members all shine, including B Street troupers David Pierini as Joe, Greg Alexander as co-worker Steve, Jamie Jones as upper-cruster Ginger and semi-regular B Streeter Dan Harlan as Walter Flood, the mysterious man with money.
Two B Street interns, Brian Rife and Ashley Padovani, hold their own portraying a young couple navigating toward the road of adulthood.
The simple set works well, helped by well-orchestrated lighting and sound, especially during the sudden hops between home, work, car and unexpected detours that Becky navigates. It’s a life that’s veering off a seemingly prescribed script, but one that Becky both balks and ultimately embraces as part of one big, unplanned road trip.