The writing in Becky’s New Car is very funny, the Bay Theatre actors very talented. Still, it’s all in service of making adultery funny and survivable with no damage done.
Becky — wife, mother and car dealership office manager — juggles work, family, a college son still at home. She’s content except for wondering if there’s more to life. One late night at the dealership Walter enters her life. He buys nine cars on the spot, assumes Becky is a widow — an impression left uncorrected — and becomes infatuated.
Here’s where the script gets tricky. Becky has a strong and loving relationship with her husband Joe. Yet she follows Walter’s lead and discovers the seductive lifestyle of the affluent. Soon an affair begins. What follows as Becky and Walter’s families intersect in myriad and overlapping ways leads to mistaken identities — until Becky is forced to choose the direction of her life.
The dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny as written; as interpreted by the actors, it gets even better. The entire cast can turn a line into a guffaw-getter with just an arched eyebrow, a sly glance to the audience or an unexpected inflection.
Director James Gallagher has paced the show well and makes the most of its style, which is to acknowledge the audience throughout, to speak directly to you — heck, even offer you beverages from the stage. By writing the script in this manner, author Steven Dietz makes the audience complicit in the action. But it is Gallagher who makes it work.
Bay Theatre Artistic Director Janet Luby leads the strong cast. Her Becky is charming, befuddled and simultaneously horrified by her actions, as she seems unable to return to the comfortable, albeit boring, life she once had. Luby’s interactions with the audience are masterful.
As Walter, Jim Chance is a daffy, affluent, sweet character. He knows when to mug, when to fill the stage with a toothy grin and when to get the laughs by standing perfectly still.
Jim Reiter, husband Joe, has a less showy role and a harder one as the compassionate, hurt but unbelievably understanding husband. Reiter interestingly depicts his character as average and makes that a goal, not a settling point.
As son Chris, Davis Chandler Hasty has to transition from arrogant college student to infatuated lover, from grief to joy to confusion in rapid succession. He succeeds.
Nigel Reed plays Steve, a grieving widower and a car salesman. His Steve is a bit over the top, but so is the situation and character that Dietz has written for him. Thus actor and role mesh perfectly.
Elena Crall plays Kenni, Walter’s pampered but lonely daughter, with poignancy.
Alicia Sweeney plays Ginger, Walter’s formerly affluent friend now down on her luck. Sweeney is a master at taking a routine line, twisting it on its head and turning it into a laugh line.
Becky’s New Car has been offered throughout the holidays, in director Gallagher’s words, to inspire us to “learn to appreciate what we each have.” Here we have a new playwright and an ensemble having great fun — both providing us cheer.
Director: James Gallagher. Producer: Wendy Saulters. Stage manager: Katherine Kaufmann. Set designer: Ken Sheats. Lighting designer: Eric Lund. Costumer: Christina McAlpine. Props by Jo Ann Gidos.
Playing thru Jan. 8 at 8pm ThFSa at Bay Theatre Company, West Garret Building, 275 West St., Annapolis. $45 w/age discounts.: 410-268-1333; www.baytheatre.org.