Regional Reviews: Seattle
Becky's New Car offers a Jaunty Ride at ACT Theatre
Dietz's heroine Becky Foster doesn't have a half-bad life; it has just become predictable and mundane. She has a solid if dullish marriage to her roofer hubby Joe, her slackerish college psych major son Chris and a decent job with a car dealership. Enter Walter Flood, a charmingly quirky millionaire who beguiles Becky. So much so in fact that she tells him her husband is deceased, as is Walter's wife. It's a fantasy come true, as Becky becomes embroiled and attached to her double life. A convenient job promotion, nearer to where Walter lives, allows her to spend the lion's share of her time with him, and only head home on weekends. Even Walter's rather predatory lady friend Ginger takes a shine to Becky, and his protective daughter Kenni starts to come around. Becky's dual existence starts to unravel quickly, what with Becky's paranoid and nosy co-worker Steve's suspicions and the fact that Kenni and Chris start dating. But this fairytale has a happy, but not particularly predictable, ending. And Dietz's conceit of having Becky and others break the fourth wall and engage the audience in conversation, or offer them a libation, works quite nicely. Director (and ACT artistic director) Beattie has been having an exemplary directorial season, and this may be his best work of the year, thanks in no small part to a simply swell ensemble cast.
Kimberly King is wonderful as Becky, embodying the wish inside all of us to take the road not chosen, with optimism and fearlessness. As Walter, Michael Winters creates a cuddly, adorably befuddled and warm hearted soul, whose brief fling at a new life with Becky seems the least he deserves. Charles Leggett is solid as Becky's rock of a husband, and makes his ultimate acceptance of Becky's behavior, unbelievable as it is, easy to swallow. Showing up after intermission, the savory performance of Suzanne Bouchard as flat-broke heiress Gwen adds a welcome dash of spice to the proceedings, and the always satisfying Bouchard never settles for letting her often bitchy laugh lines do all the work for her, but underscores them with a healthy layer of humanity. R. Hamilton Wright draws his share of laughs from the role of simpering Steve, and Anna Lisa Carlson and Benjamin Harris are attractive and pleasant in the sketchier roles of Kenni and Chris.
William Bloodgood's smart and spare scenic design suggests both the comfortable middle class trappings of Becky's home and Walter's fancier space without resorting to much scenery shifting at all, and the late arriving new car of the title is ingeniously designed and executed. Rick Paulson's lighting design is varied and subtle, and Catherine Hunt's costumes are attractive and apt.
You won't see a comedy this good, or likely this well acted, on television or in the neighborhood multi-plex, so if laughs are what you're after, drive on over to ACT soon.
Becky's New Car runs through November 26, 2009 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, downtown Seattle. For more information, visit www.acttheatre.org.
- David Edward Hughes