Becky's New Car

Becky (Kimberly King) has a pretty good life. Her job is decent, if stressful; her husband (Charles Leggett) is nice, if a bit dull; and her son (Benjamin Harris) is a smart-ass, but at least he’s smart. It’s an ordinary life, and she can’t help but think what it might be like to have an extraordinary one. Along comes Walter (Michael Winters), an exorbitantly wealthy widower who, through a misunderstanding, presumes Becky’s husband to be dead. She doesn’t correct him, and her romantic double life begins. Steven Dietz’s latest commission from ACT is a surprisingly formulaic farce, built largely around the British model of miscommunication and missed connections. Reverse the gender roles, and you’d quite nearly have Ray Cooney’s Run for Your Wife. Dietz has spared us the mistaken identities, but he’s left in plenty of contrived moments where characters slip in and out and fail to hear key information. When Becky’s son announces he has a new girlfriend, Becky’s major point of inquiry is the girl’s name. On several occasions she asks him about it, but of course he’s on the run and can’t possibly spare the time for those three syllables.

For all its clichéd devices, though, Becky’s New Car is a highly successful production. First, the ensemble is wonderful—especially King, a talented actress playing a woman who is decidedly not a talented actress. Becky seems consistently on the edge of a breakdown, and King plays her with sincere emotion that brings the farce to a new level. Second, William Bloodgood’s scenic design and Rick Paulsen’s lighting are inventive and fresh. And finally, Dietz’s addition to the standards of farce is a heightened level of audience awareness—and occasionally participation—that works to great comic effect. BRENT ARONOWITZ [Also see John Longenbaugh's interview with Dietz here.] 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. & Sun., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., plus some matinees. Ends Nov. 16.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Oct. 17. Continues through Nov. 16, 2008

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