By Steven Dietz. Directed by Rachel Ditor. An Arts Club Theatre Company production at the Granville Island Stage on Wednesday, May 12. Continues until June 5
Becky’s New Car doesn’t take you anywhere surprising, but it does offer a great little joy ride.
In American playwright Steven Dietz’s script, Becky behaves a lot like a man in a traditional marriage. She works such long hours at her desk job in a car dealership that her husband, Joe, complains about feeling ignored. Rather than addressing her responsibility and paying more attention to her family, Becky takes the easy out: when an eccentric millionaire widower shows up after-hours to buy nine cars for his employees, she allows him to think that her husband is dead.
I won’t reveal the extent to which Becky takes her indiscretion, but I will say that she gets caught and that order—of a sort—is restored: Joe doesn’t berate Becky harshly but, when they go for a spin in her new automobile, he makes her scoot out of the driver’s seat so that he can take the wheel. Dietz’s protagonist is a woman, but he has clearly imagined her story from a male perspective. It must also be said that emotional credibility often takes a back seat to plot; Becky’s marital dissatisfaction is only vaguely sketched, and the fallout from her betrayal is surrealistically minimal.
Still, Dietz’s script is charming. Becky blithely—and repeatedly—barges through the fourth wall, sharing her guilt and indecision with us, getting us onside. With the help of audience members, Becky strips to her underwear and puts on a dress for her date with Walter, the rich guy. Becky is so scatterbrained and well-intentioned that you can’t help but like her, and Deborah Williams is so perfect for the role—she brings such warmth and comedic skill to it—that it feels like the part could have been written for her.
Under Rachel Ditor’s direction, Cavan Cunningham persuasively inhabits salt-of-the-earth Joe, and Jackson Davies is beautifully understated as the loopy Walter, who tosses his wedding ring into the ocean and says, “I thought I’d feel free, but I just feel like I threw my ring in the water.” Hrothgar Mathews is very funny as Becky’s neurotic coworker Steven, and Lindsey Angell brings Walter’s daughter Kennie to life, even though that character is slight as written. Newcomer Kevin Stark will be more engaging when he figures out how to bring greater spontaneity to his performance as Becky and Joe’s son, Chris. Pia Shandel is wooden as a penniless socialite named Ginger, although she does get to deliver one of the evening’s most surprising lines.
Becky’s New Car is conservative, but it’s also compassionate. It keeps you laughing and never bores. Runs good. Some rust.
Watch the trailer for Becky's New Car