Hopewell’s ‘Becky’s New Car’ Has Miles Per Laugh

By J.E.Ballantyne Jr.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Becky Foster is a frazzled housewife, business woman, mother and all round problem-solver who whisks on stage at the beginning of Stephen Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car” immediately engaging the audience in direct conversation.

As she tidies up her home the audience learns all about her family and the many problems she faces daily. She is the Office Manager at Bill Buckley’s Nissan/Mitsubishi where she is over-worked and underpaid. Jumping back and forth between home and office, the beginning scenes are pretty much there for expository reasons to set up things yet to come.

Becky’s life, however, takes a dramatic turn when a grieving millionaire enters her life one evening looking to purchase nine new cars as gifts for his employees. Now, that’s the kind of boss most people could get used to working for. But those nine new cars take Becky on a very unexpected trip.

Dietz dissolves the traditional fourth wall of theater as Becky converses with audience members and actually pulls some of them into the action. At one point, a random audience member even becomes part of the action on stage. Although an interesting technique, it takes some getting used to in the early going.

Rosalyn Blystone turns in a tour-de-force performance as Becky; there are few scenes that don’t include her. Her lines are rapid fire in many places and her energy is off the charts. Blystone has developed this character so well that it is easy to forget that she is acting; she captivates you with her charm, wit and natural line delivery, And her rapport with the audience only underlines the strength of her performance. Not every actor can pull audience involvement off so easily and remain in character.

The beginning of the script seems very scattered and non-directional. I found myself feeling somewhat left behind in the early going. The show does not really get a jolt until the entrance of grieving millionaire, Walter Flood. Played by Brian Suchora, Flood is a fast-talking insecure, and not all-together quite there recent widower. Suchora’s first scene really electrifies the entire show. The ensuing dialogue between Flood and Becky gives rise to the first hints of farce as Flood humorously misinterprets much of what Becky has to say. By the time Suchora exits, it is like a whirlwind crossed the stage.

Suchora has become one of the most talented actors on the Youngstown theater scene and he chocks up another victory in this outing. Not to give anything away, his scene late in the second act while on the telephone is certainly a highlight of the show, given the character’s scattered and nervous previous appearances..

Nick Mulichak plays Joe, Becky’s faithful husband, who owns his own roofing company It seems that Joe enjoys standing on people’s houses. Mulichak plays a likeable, even keel Joe as he navigates the many issues surrounding Becky’s hectic life. Mulichak puts Joe across as the ever present port in a storm that Becky can lean on until things turn crazy as they always do in farce.

Son Chris, played by Dominick Spisak(two different spellings in program; hopefully I chose the right one), is a philosophizing college student studying psychology. No comment in the Foster household escapes Chris’s psychoanalysis. Dominick handles the character well as the psychology jargon just rolls off of his tongue with little effort.

Since Becky works at a car dealership, we need a car salesman. Timothy Stanley handles that job well as Steve. Steve is an over-wrought individual who has not so recently lost his wife. His grieving is long and humorously tortured as he launches into tearful reminiscences including sleeping under his desk for three days.

Jennifer Milligan turns in a good performance as Kenni Flood (Walter’s daughter and Chris’s girlfriend). With this being farce you can guess where that is going. Kenni is a jogger who hates to run and dislikes exercise of any kind. Hence, she fakes ankle injuries to avoid working up a sweat.

Ginger, a not-so-grieving rich widow, is well played by Dawn Rogers. Well, she once was rich but has lost everything and is on the look out for any man who can change that. Rogers is appropriately schemey as she oils her way around the stage in the party scene.

Farce generally plays itself out into outlandish ending circumstances as it works its way to a finale. This show, however, takes on a more serious tone as it reaches the final curtain. Dietz shifts the direction of the show almost without the audience realizing it. I did find the ending, however, seeming more than a little dragged out. It just seemed like there were too many false endings.

Director Christopher Fidram has chosen his cast well. Timing is everything in this type of show and Fidram and company have hit the mark on that count. Fidram’s set design is well thought out with numerous locations overlapping on stage without looking crowded or cramped.

Although no one is credited with lighting design, lighting plays an important part in this production from isolating scenes and locations to adding some color and pizzazz.

Costume design is well done (again uncredited) which also adds to some of the color on stage.

This is a very different type of comedy/farce than most people are used to seeing. The heavy reliance on pulling the audience into the show, and almost making them a separate character, provides some great opportunities for the actors. If you are looking for something light with a little bit of a different twist, this show could be for you.

“Becky’s New Car” will continue April 22, 28, 29 at 7:30 p.m.; April 30 at p.m.

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