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Becky's New Car

a Romantic Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Steven Dietz

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4203

SHOWING : January 05, 2012 - January 22, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

"When a woman says she needs new shoes, what she really wants is a new job. When she says she needs a new house, she wants a new husband. And when she says she wants a new car, she wants a new life."
Meet Becky Foster, a modern day American Everywoman stuck in middle age and middle management with no prospects for change. Enter a socially inept millionaire who offers Becky an enticing new life. You're invited to ride shotgun with Becky as she faces her own fork in the road on a wickedly funny, inventive and touching ride through the perils of middle age.
Rated PG: Adult subject matter.

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CAST & CREW LIST
Director Shannon Eubanks
Rehearsal Stage Manager Hayley Brotherton
Scenic Designer Jamie Bullins
Production Stage Manager Gretchen Butler
Costume Designer Alan Yeong
Ginger LaLa Cochran
Joe Foster Randy Cohlmia
Kenni Flood Kelly Criss
Walter Flood Allan Edwards
Becky Foster Wendy Melkonian
Steve Vince Pisani
Chris Foster Jacob York
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REVIEWS

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Becky's New Life
by Dedalus
Sunday, January 29, 2012
4.5
Someone (it may have been Becky herself) once said that when a woman says she wants a new house, it means she really wants a new husband (**), and when she says she wants a new car, it really means she wants a new life. I guess I’ve always been one of those doofuses (doofi?) who never “got” the “code” of inter-gender communications. If you want a new life, just say “I want a new life!”

On the other hand, if the speaker is as charming and pleasant as Becky Foster (as played by Wendy Melkonian), I’d sign up for a lifetime supply of “Code Lessons.”

“Becky’s New Car” is a completely winning new play by Steven Dietz (whose “Shooting Star” I loved a few years ago at the Horizon Theatre). In it, he not only “breaks the fourth wall,” he shatters it completely and rebuilds it behind the audience. Becky starts out the play by talking to us, even having some folks in the front row help out with some housekeeping chores. She’s feeling used and abused, the spark has gone out of her marriage, and her “professional student” son appears to be a permanent resident of the house. She’s also the office manager of a new car lot, and, when one night, a befuddled old widower comes in to order nine cars for his office staff, there is a slight misunderstanding, a little lie of omission, and soon Becky is back-sliding into a sorta kinda affair with the widower and creating a very fragile house of lies to cover her tracks.

Toss into the mix a few more eccentric characters and a few plot contrivances that wear their artificiality proudly, and we’re left with a tasty Mulligatawny of a play, filled with wit, heart, spice, and surprise.

It’s true, Becky makes some questionable choices, with a loosey-goosey relationship with honesty, but she is so, well, nice, that it’s easy to forgive her. In fact, the irony here is that her husband, definitely the wronged person in this situation, comes across as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud for not being as forgiving as we are. To be sure, the play ends on a note of {Description deleted by the spoiler police} that went a long way in helping me rationalize my odd acceptance of all the lies and machinations. But, still, it’s an unusual (and morally suspect) reaction.

The wonderfully energetic cast goes a long way in taking responsibility for how well this play works. In addition to the always wonderful Ms. Melkonian, Allan Edwards is a charmingly befuddled Walter Flood, Becky’s guide into her new life. The always luminously yummy Kelly Criss sparkles as Walter’s daughter, Kenni, and the always sparkly Jacob York shines luminously as Chris, Becky’s intelligent, not-as-slacker-as-she-thinks son. Add in Randy Cohumas as Becky’s grumpy husband Joe, Lala Cochran as Walter’s hot-for-his-money friend Ginger, and Vince Pisani as an oddball co-worker, and you’ve got a dream ensemble, better than the sum of its parts, and those parts are pretty durn good!

Jamie Bullens has put together a functional set with discrete playing areas lit by Bryan Rosengrant that lets the action flow seamlessly from scene to scene, with its sparseness underscoring the meta-concept of theatrical contrivance. And, of course Shannon Eubanks directs it all with high energy, well-orchestrated stage pictures, and easy rapport with the audience.

In the final analysis, the theatrically contrived style of the piece perfectly underscores the “code” concept of the title character (alright, Becky does get an actual new car, but it’s not what’s important). I love how the characters all play well off the audience. At one point, during the final scene, Becky’s husband even says “You don’t think I don’t see all of them out there?”

And I really really love the character of Becky Foster. Even with the wonderful ensemble, this is Wendy Melkonian’s play (she spends the first 10 or so minutes alone on stage with us), and she is wonderful. She had me from her first line and didn’t let go until her last. She takes us all for a heck of a ride, and ,,, you know, now that I just said that, it could be that sometimes a new car is just a new car. Sometimes you need a new car to make you appreciate how comfortable the old one was. More often, though, two days into the “new car” experience, you’ve totally forgotten that dull old rattletrap you’re glad to be out of.

But, I digress…

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

** Should I be concerned that my wife keeps talking about getting a new house?

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Take It to Broadway!
by playgoer
Monday, January 9, 2012
5.0
Wendy Melkonian is unequaled in her interaction with audiences. Her wry, sweet persona and crackerjack comic timing immediately bring a smile to one's face. Steven Dietz's "Becky's New Car" gives Wendy's character (Becky) plenty of opportunity to interact with the audience in a scripted (or semi-scripted) way. The first half of the show is filled with comedy, most of it sparked by Ms. Melkonian's always-in-character, understated antics.

The other performances are very good too. I had gotten into the habit of cringing at seeing Allan Edwards' name in a program after his deadly boring role in Georgia Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra," but this show erases that role from my memory. He plays Walter Flood, a billboard magnate, with great integrity and tremendous, misplaced enthusiasms. His character is charming, sweet, and wears his heart dangling somewhere on the nearmost part of his sleeve. It's no wonder that Becky (or Rebecca, as he calls her) finds herself falling for him a little bit, despite her better judgment.

Becky's husband, Joe, is played by Randy Cohlmia with blue-collar solidness, doing a great job with his audience interactions in act two. Becky's son, Chris, is a psychology student and spouts psychobabble throughout the show. Jacob York plays him with the same verve and power as Joe, giving so much energy to his lines that they never fall flat or become boring. Co-worker Steve, played by Vince Pisani, also overflows with energy, reaching emotional highs and lows that both keep the audience howling.

Kelly Criss and Lala Cochran have smaller roles, appearing only in act two, but they also acquit themselves well. Great energy is also a quality of Kelly Criss' acting, so she fits right in. Ms. Cochran's character is a bit more aloof, but the actress manages to imbue her with her own comic touches.

The cast is top-flight. The set, by Jamie Bullins, is no more than adequate, with suspended photos upstage seemingly slightly off-kilter and traffic markings on the edges of the highly raked set not really integrated into the remainder of the design. Lighting, by Bryan Rosengrant, does a good job of spotlighting individual portions of the stage to suggest different locales. Alan Yeong's costumes don't really highlight the actors' best features, and Lala Cochran's right earring repeatedly slipped off during the performance I saw. The technical elements could use some tweaking to make the show even more successful.

Steven Dietz is a leading contemporary playwright of popular works. "Becky's New Car" shows why. It's smart, funny, and, by the end, a bit poignant. Some plot developments are telegraphed in advance, letting the audience feel they're a little ahead of the game, while the major developments all come as surprises. We are really taken on a journey in "Becky's New Car," and director Shannon Eubanks has ensured that the journey flows by smoothly, engaging the audience throughout. It's wonderful entertainment, well-suited to Georgia Ensemble's mainstream-oriented audiences.
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