February 1

Review: Good Theater’s ‘Becky’s New Car’ explores midlife crisis with a fun twist

Laura Houck excels in the quirky title role as the play debuts in Portland.

By April Boyle

In Good Theater’s latest production, “Becky’s New Car,” the audience is invited to climb into the passenger seat and take a drive through Becky Foster’s (Laura Houck) midlife crisis.

THEATER REVIEW

WHAT: “Becky’s New Car” by Good Theater

WHERE: The St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland

DATE REVIEWED: Friday; play runs through Feb. 23

TICKETS: $25-$30

CONTACT: 885-5883, www.goodtheater.com

What do you give a woman for her 60th birthday? For Charlie Staadecker, the answer was a gift that would keep on giving, not only to his wife, Benita, but also to theatergoers for years to come. He commissioned a play from ACT theater in Seattle, which hired award-winning playwright Steven Dietz to pen “Becky’s New Car.”

The critically acclaimed play has been staged across the U.S. Good Theater’s rendition, directed my Brian P. Allen, marks its Portland debut.

When the words “midlife crisis” are bandied about, we tend to automatically insert the word “male” into the phrase. “Becky’s New Car” is a smart, witty play that provides a fun twist on the stereotypical midlife crisis: a female point of view.

Becky loves her husband, Joe (Paul Drinan), and son, Chris (Jesse Leighton), but feels like her life is stuck in neutral. When a millionaire, Walter (Paul Haley), wanders into the car dealership where she works, her life shifts gears rapidly, sending her down a rocky road that’s filled with laughs.

Patrons couldn’t ask for a more engaging guide than Houck to bring the play’s wayward title character to the stage.

Houck wholeheartedly embraces Becky’s quirks and need for audience interaction. She doesn’t just talk to the audience members. She gives them things and asks for advice and assistance. The interaction provides a delightful unpredictability and lots of opportunity for ad-libbing.

A hilarious cast of supporting characters joins Becky on her journey of self-discovery.

Leighton is an endless source of amusement as Becky’s 26-year-old, psychology-spouting son, Chris, a freeloading college student who sleeps in, parties and shirks household responsibilities.

“My son was loaded, and the dishwasher was not,” Becky quips.

Drinan and Haley clearly have fun representing the duality of Becky’s life as her husband and lover. Each has a deadpan delivery that cracked up the audience Friday night. And when the two characters met, the laughter kicked into high gear.

Becky’s co-worker Steve (Wil Kilroy) provides added high jinks, and Kilroy masterfully draws laugh after laugh as the recently widowed salesman. Just when you think his neurotic character couldn’t get any funnier, Steve hooks up with Ginger, played by the fabulous Kathleen Kimball. Allison McCall rounds out the fantastic cast as Walter’s daughter, Kenni.

“Becky’s New Car” is a wonderfully diverting road trip, packed with fun-filled twists and turns. It’s a well-oiled engine, fueled by the best possible renewable resource: laughter. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: aprilhboyle@yahoo.com
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