Published Date Written by Harold Withee
"When you reach a certain age you become invisible. I wanted to be seen." BECKY'S NEW CAR is the new production from Good Theater, being mounted at the St. Lawrence Arts Center. The story begins with the lead character, Becky, telling how an elderly woman stripped down to her birthday suit in public and the response she gave when asked why. Becky then starts to describe her own life, which leads to questioning her own position and happiness within her own realm of existence. She explains when a woman states she wants a new car, she is really uttering her desire for a new life. Circumstances create the opportunity for Becky to wade in the green grass from the other side. This delightful comedy allows the audience a front row seat for the humorous ride.
Brain P. Allen directs this cast of local actors and I applaud the use of Maine-based Equity talent. Too often when professional actors are used in this town they are imported from away. Lately, the majority of that talent I have to sit through, just are not worth the price of their plane ticket. Perhaps having a Maine address when holding a union card means our talent has leaked out?
Laura Houck portrays Becky. I have seen this Equity actress is other productions and have always been impressed with the ease she handles in-depth character work. Ms. Houck is the pole in the center of the tent, solidly holding center ground as the world around her unravels. Ms. Houck also handles the absence of the fourth wall very well; opening a show up to audience participation always creates a bit of the unknown. (Relax, you will not be pulled from your seat and embarrassed, unless you want to be.)
The other standout actor in this production is the incredibly amusing performance of Kathleen Kimball. Ms. Kimball plays the social climber Ginger and is a complete joy as the catty yet witty gold digger. What I love about her portrayal is the absence of caricature, layering Ginger with compassion and a feeling heart. Ms. Kimball also had the ability to keep the pace of the show flowing. The humor in the show, at times, is lost because of the slow an uneven timing of some cast members. I did feel the two younger actors, Jesse Leighton as Chris and Allison McCall as Kennni, had well rounded characters but at times seemed to have mush mouth. This is a small venue and I shouldn't have to lean in to hear and understand. Both actors have degrees in theater; prove to me you attended a voice class.
Paul Haley is Walter, the man with millions who is the catalyst in changing Becky's life. Mr. Haley brings adolescent energy to "socially inept" Walter, a man who inherited his father's billboard business and was told not to screw it up. I enjoyed the journey this gentleman travels, taking us through a comedy of errors at one point in the second act.
The St. Lawrence has a small stage, yet the design and use of space is always impressive with good theater. Craig Robinson is the set designer and creates a very functional playing space, providing four distinct zones. The stage never seems cramped and Mr. Allen is a master with creating interesting stage pictures. Cheryl Dolan is credited as the scenic artist and is responsible for my favorite aspect of the set, the painted flats of blue sky and white fluffy clouds. These flats are positioned around the set and as soon as I walked into the auditorium I wanted to take a deep breath and meditate as I watched the clouds float by. The technical credits are filled out by Justin Cote's costumes, lighting by Iain Odlin and sound design provided by Stephen Underwood.
BECKY'S NEW CAR is a charming new play, produced by capable hands.
Good Theater performs at the St. Lawrence Arts Center on Munjoy Hill and runs through Feb. 23. For tickets and information, call 885-5883 or www.goodtheater.com.
(Harold Withee is a member of Actors' Equity and SAG/AFTRA.)