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Posted Oct 24, 2012, 2:21 pm
You can be on a journey of discovery long before you even know it’s begun. That’s what happens in “Becky’s New Car,” a Sacred Chicken Production starring Carrie Hill. This is the last weekend to catch the show, which is being presented at the Beowulf Alley Theatre downtown.
In the play by Steven Dietz, Becky (Hill) stars in her own tale, which she also narrates, speaking directly to the audience. It starts off as a slice of life story, but quickly takes a left turn into strange new territory.
How Becky gets around
Becky is a typically modern suburban mom/wife/co-worker – harried, but not unhappy, loving but not passionate. She shuffles paperwork for a car dealer while trying to make it home in time for dinner with her husband, Joe, and her son, Chris.
Dutiful Joe works hard at his roofing business, while Chris seems to be hardly working at anything – he’s in his mid-twenties, drifting through life like his mother, still living at home and continuing college after yet another change of major, this time to Psychology.
At the car dealership, Becky accidentally meets a wealthy widower, Walter. A successful businessman, Walter’s life is now adrift without his wife to organize him. He comes to the dealership looking to buy a small fleet of new cars as gifts for his staff.
Through a series of misunderstandings which Becky fails to correct, he thinks she is also a widower and quickly becomes attached to her. The opportunity to slip into a new life of privilege and passion suddenly beckons, and without thinking much about the consequences, she allows herself, as Walter’s newly rechristened “Rebecca,” to be swept away into an affair.
The farce/screwball mix
The play builds into a mix of farce and screwball comedy with Becky spending weekdays (and nights) at Walter’s under the pretext of helping to open a new dealership in another city. Her co-worker, Steve, is suspicious, however, since the new dealership is both a secret and far from ready. Meanwhile, Chris has finally found some passion himself – for his new girlfriend, who turns out to be Walter’s daughter.
As things begin to unravel, Becky is yet again offered a new life when a paperwork mix-up allows her to drive off in a new car, leaving everything behind. She takes the opportunity and, well, explaining what happens next would spoil it. You should see for yourself.
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Hill is delightful as the peripatetic Becky in a life always just slightly beyond her control. Dashing back and forth between home and the dealership on the split stage, we understand how her life leaves no time for self-reflection. Becky’s recklessness is more acceptable because it’s casual rather than calculated. Hill gives her character vulnerability, as surprised as anybody at what she’s doing.
Sometimes, it’s the little things
Director Rhonda Hallquist is a longtime collaborator with Hill, going back to their days together in local Bloodhut Productions. Hallquist keeps her hand steady on the throttle to control the show’s gradual but relentless accelerando. There are plenty of little touches, too, like giving Becky an ironic ringtone, the riff from Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”
“Becky’s New Car” is a mostly a showcase for its lead character, but there are some sporty supporting roles. In particular, Aaron Guising as son Chris and Steve McKee as co-worker Steve provide over-the-top grace notes so that Hill is not the only wacky person on stage. Gabriel Nagy is rock steady as Joe, while Jeff Scotland is touching as the gentle, befuddled Walter. Amy Erbe as Walter’s friend, Ginger, and Lucille Petty as Walter’s daughter, Kensington, both fresh from Winding Road Theatre’s “Speech and Debate,” round out the cast.
“Becky’s New Car” uses the speed of its exposition to gloss over its logic, not to mention the ethical concerns over Becky’s wanton disregard for the pain she will leave in her wake. Nonethess, this is an engaging adult comedy (as in mature and sophisticated, rather than adult as in raunchy in the case of “Avenue Q” also closing this weekend). Best of all is Hill’s performance, which, dare we say, is a gas, gas, gas.