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 hes smart. Its an ordinary life, and she cant 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 Beckys husband to be dead. She doesnt correct him, and her romantic double life begins. Steven Dietzs 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 youd quite nearly have Ray Cooneys Run for Your Wife. Dietz has spared us the mistaken identities, but hes left in plenty of contrived moments where characters slip in and out and fail to hear key information. When Beckys son announces he has a new girlfriend, Beckys major point of inquiry is the girls name. On several occasions she asks him about it, but of course hes on the run and cant possibly spare the time for those three syllables.
For all its clichéd devices, though, Beckys New Car is a highly successful production. First, the ensemble is wonderfulespecially 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 Bloodgoods scenic design and Rick Paulsens lighting are inventive and fresh. And finally, Dietzs addition to the standards of farce is a heightened level of audience awarenessand occasionally participationthat 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