BWW Review: BECKY'S NEW CAR at DreamWrights

BWW Review: BECKY'S NEW CAR at DreamWrightsBecky's New Car, written by Steven Dietz as part of ACT Theatre's New Works for the American Stage program in 2008, follows the story of Becky Foster, a wife and mother who works at a car dealership. Simultaneously funny and poignant, the play explores the question of what makes life most fulfilling-contentment or adventure. Becky's New Car opened in the Studio Theatre at DreamWrights Center For Community Arts on August 2.

Immediately upon entering the theatre, the audience experiences a set that truly sets the scene for the show. The traffic signs hanging all over the theatre with message such as "dangerous curves" and "slippery when wet" evoke the sense that not everything is going to be smooth sailing, and indeed the story takes many emotional twists and turns. The way in which the set team led by Scenic Designer and Technical Director Bob McCleary created four different locations in a venue as small as the Studio Theatre was clean, smart, and innovative. The audience has no difficulty differentiating between the various locations even though they are all visible on stage for the entire performance. The details are what make the set truly special-family photos on the walls of the living room, matching orange office supplies at the car dealership, and much more. There were three things in particular that stood out with respect to the set: 1. The coffee table that turns into a car is genius; 2. The roads painted on the floor almost meet in the center of the stage but stop short of converging, as each of them is cut off by a "Stop" line; 3. The walls of the set are designed in such a way that they simultaneously bleed into one another, encroach on one another, and tear each other apart-just as the different areas of Becky's life, represented by each location of the set, bleed into each other, encroach on each other, and tear each other apart.

The show is filled with little details that make all the difference such as a mug held by Joe that says "Big Cuppa Joe" on it, Joe's t-shirt that advertises his roofing company, and Chris's tendency to put his feet on the coffee table in spite of his mother's repeated warnings not to. Not only are the set and props thoughtfully designed, but the blocking works well within the space. Director Kirk Wiser uses every part of the stage so that the audience, seated on 3 sides, can truly experience the action. The only aspect of the staging that occasionally seems a bit off is the lighting. Due to the space and construction of the Studio Theatre, there are some brief scenes where the actors have difficulty finding their light, resulting in distracting shadows on their faces.

While the nerves were apparent in the opening scene, once the first monologue was over, the cast hit their stride and delivered a thoughtful and thought-provoking performance. Kelly Kearn, who portrays Becky, draws the audience in with her facial expressions and the ways in which she interacts with the other characters in the show. Her Becky is funny and authentic. She artfully displays a balance between Becky's practical, rational, and responsible side and her romantic, adventurous, and rebellious side.

Dan Gilbert, who plays Becky's husband Joe, delivers a solid performance as a down-to-earth, what you see is what you get roofer. As the play progresses, Gilbert reveals nuances and facets of Joe's personality that lend themselves to some beautifully touching scenes with Kearn's Becky.

Chris Foster is Becky and Joe's twenty-six-year-old son who still lives at home and is studying psychology. Justin Nicholas portrays Chris as the quintessential twenty-something intellectual trying to prove himself while having no idea who he is or what he wants to do. Nicholas and Kearn are delightful to watch together as they banter back and forth about pizza and life.

Stephen Nowell first comes across as a little flat in his portrayal of Becky's friend and co-worker Steve; however, once he gets to the story about the child and puppy (you'll have to see the show to get the story), he loosens up and delivers a range of emotions in his character that come across much better on stage than they do in the script. He particularly shines in his scenes in the second act with Ginger (played by Tigris Aquino).

In contrast to Becky's hard-working, middle-class family is the world of Walter Flood. From the moment Rodd Robertson steps on stage as Walter Flood, he captivates the audience. Robertson manages to come across as rich and entitled while simultaneously being endearing and sympathetic.

Kayla Nicholas and Tigris Aquino round out the cast as Kenni Flood (Walter's daughter) and Ginger (Walter's friend), respectively. Nicholas's Kenni is protective of her father and unsure of what she really wants for her future. One of her best scenes is in Act 2 when she says she wants to slow things down with Chris and that she maybe needs to talk to Becky-her uncertainty and fear of the future in this scene are evoked in her expression and tone and makes it very relatable. Aquino is fantastic as Ginger. She delivers Ginger's lines with a perfect edge of sarcasm that appropriately heightens the awkwardness of some of the scenes at Walter's house.

There are many moments that could be noted as highlights in this performance. One of the best performed scenes features Walter, Joe, Kenni, and Chris when Chris and Kenni announce their pending engagement. Among my favorite scenes are Walter's first visit to the car dealership, Becky and Walter's ring throwing scene, Joe and Walter's first meeting, and Becky's final scene with Joe. Overall it is a solid performance by a talented cast. It is clear that they spent time working on their interactions to make them authentic and relatable.

Don't miss out. Join Becky on her adventure by getting your tickets for Becky's New Car at www.dreamwrights.org. The show runs through August 12th.

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From This Author Andrea Stephenson

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