American theatrical comedy loves men suffering mid-life crises and scratching their seven-year itches. Steven Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car” gives equal time to women-of-a-certain-age stuck in various ruts. Our titular Becky (Becky Holahan) is a 50-something wife and mother. She has a good job at a car dealership, a stable husband (Neil Kasanofsky as a roofer with his feet on the ground) and a good life. She’s bored to tears.
Not that Becky complains … exactly. Though she does maintain a running dialogue with the audience. Dietz’s play doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as it crashes through it like a four-wheel-drive assault vehicle. (More automotive puns ahead. Proceed with caution!) Becky maintains a running chatter with the audience, offering them soda and beers — or getting them to help with her collating. (If you’ve ever wanted to break into theater, sit in the front row at this play. You’ll get your chance.) Becky never asks the audience for help with her midlife crisis, though. No problem.
Becky’s working late one night when Walter (Neil Levine), a befuddled-but-charming millionaire appears. While Becky fills out his last-minute order for nine cars, Cupid zaps his heart. Widower Walter gets the impression that Becky is also a widow. She never corrects him. Complications and an affair ensue.
Nothing bad happens … exactly. The comic engine simply accelerates Becky into the farce lane. Becky, (a four-square, moral lady) is suddenly juggling lies and double lives. Like all good people, she’s bad at it, and all the stuff she’s juggling comes crashing down. But, failure is always funny — just ask Wile E. Coyote. John Michael Andzulis’s excellent set design helps sell the joke; the action all happens in one set, doubling as home and office. Becky leaps across time and space. Aristotle’s unity of action gets hit in the crosswalk.
Such wacky comedy needs savvy comedic talents. Venice Theatre delivers. Director Murray Chase’s screwball rhythm is firing on all eight cylinders. The actors are equally fine. Holahan doesn’t exactly steal the show — the car belongs to “Becky,” after all. But the weight of the play is on her, and she carries it effortlessly. Kasanofsky is wonderfully deadpan as the husband. Levine serves up the dead-opposite vibe as the heart-on-his-sleeve millionaire. Diane Brin is winning as a poor little ex-rich girl. Ronald Krine Myroup is Robin Williams-esque as Becky’s co-worker — a widower on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Great performances also from Scott Ireland (as Becky’s psycho-babbling grad student son) and Arianna DeCecco (as his bubbly girlfriend).
Strong script. Strong cast. Strong direction. It all adds up to a light, tight, bright performance. At the end of the road? It’s no spoiler to say: Becky’s life resets. A few dings and scratches, maybe. But no shootings, stabbings, ghosts or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” shouting matches. Comedy (farce especially) forgives. Especially when it’s Becky we’re talking about. This is a play that wants you to like it, with a central character who shamelessly wants you to like her. It works.
If Becky wanted to sell the audience cars, they’d all walk out with keys in their hands when the curtain came down.