Sunday, September 22, 2019

Wetumpka Depot: "Becky's New Car"

"When a woman says she wants new shoes, what she really wants is a new job. When a woman says she wants a new house, she wants a new husband. And when a woman says she needs a new car, she wants a new life!" -- Prolific playwright Steven Dietz's 2008  Becky's New Car is all about that.

Currently on offer at the Wetumpka Depot, director Tom Salter's dynamic ensemble actors enliven Dietz's script with elan as they interact directly with the audience at times while engaging our interest in Becky Foster's [Chantel Oakley] plight. -- She works long hours in a car dealership and takes little joy in her home life with her devoted hard working roofing-contractor husband Joe [Brad Sinclair] and their live-at-home son Chris [Hunter Lee Smith], a psychology student prone to analyzing everyone in sophomoric psychobabble. -- At work, she is challenged by the needy salesman Steve [Will Webster]. -- In short, Becky "wants a new life!"

When millionaire widower Walter Flood [Eric Arvidson] shows up at the dealership and orders a fleet of cars as gifts, he mistakenly believes that Becky [he insists on calling her Rebecca] is a widow, and thereby both sympathetic to his loneliness and a possible romantic partner.

Walter invites Becky to his island estate, where she meets his spoiled daughter Kenni [Lindsey Justus] and socialite Ginger [Jenny Whisenhunt]. -- Becky has second thoughts about this assignation with Walter, though she finds it hard to tell him or herself the truth.

With fluid staging, Mr. Salter guides his ensemble around a unit set containing Becky's home, the car dealership office, and the dock at Walter's estate; and he has his actors freely moving from one to another while they address the audience and times invite them to participate in the action, thus making everyone feel comfortable in their presence.

And the actors connect with their characters' foibles so naturally that nothing seems forced or false, even in the most extreme moments of comical panic by Mr. Webster, or Ms. Whisenhunt's depiction of an outrageous drunk.

There are plenty of plot twists, and Becky's secret new-found freedom stresses her with guilt; but how she and the others recognize their shortcomings as well as their strengths is done simply and effectively by the talented cast.

Mr. Smith's naivete is countered when he realizes true love; Ms. Justus transforms from a spoiled brat to an understanding young woman; Mr. Arvidson imbues sincerity and pathos to Walter's plight; Mr. Sinclair combines expert comic delivery and timing with a naturalistic devotion to his wandering wife; and Ms. Oakley carries the show on her most capable shoulders as she invites us all to share her journey filled with belly laughs and tears.