Life in the “A” Lane
by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
For Becky (Margaret Melozzi), the bored and befuddled middle-aged workaholic mom in Steven Dietz’s comedy, “Becky’s New Car,” life in the adulterous lane is anything but a smooth ride. Becky’s reluctant journey on the road to and from marital bliss is pocked with more potholes than I-95 after a brutal winter and has enough detours to discourage even the most seasoned traveler. But once the A train leaves the station, there is no getting off. Or is there?
Mark Peckham’s skillfully paced direction keeps Becky’s excursion moving at a breakneck pace, stopping only long enough for laughs (of which there are plenty) and for Melozzi to collapse the theater’s “fourth” wall, thereby inviting the audience to become participants in the play. If this theatrical device was meant to endear Becky to the audience, it worked well enough, but was probably not needed.
Melozzi’s portrayal of Becky is so delightful that you can’t help but want her to be your best friend. She is weak and strong, terrified and courageous, cheerful and melancholy, in and very out of control; in short, she is as human as the rest of us with a lot of the same problems: an unappreciative adult son still occupying his historic living quarters, a demanding job, a home she spends precious little time in, and a spouse who is too often separated either emotionally or physically from her. Becky is experiencing her mid-life crisis; she is lonely, unfulfilled, an affair waiting to happen.
Enter widower Walter (Vince Petronio), a deliciously handsome, fabulously wealthy, and genuinely decent guy who although still mourning the loss of his wife is more than willing to leap into the breach. Walter is immediately taken with the quirky Becky and through a misunderstanding (which Becky fails to clarify) assumes that Becky’s husband is dead and departed. The truth is Joe (Kerry Callery) is not dead; he’s just departed, and just temporarily to complete an out of town roofing job. Joe owns a roofing company; ironically, Becky is the only thing he can’t keep some kind of lid on. The smooth and steady portrayals of Becky’s love interests by Petronio and Callery serve as strong counterpoints to Becky’s flighty persona captured so vividly by Melozzi. Either man would be an ideal husband for any woman, so it is easy to understand why Becky might be open to the idea of not limiting herself to one ideal partner when two are so readily available and willing to accommodate her every wish.
Then there is Steve (F. William Oakes), a not so hotshot salesman at the luxury auto dealership where Becky works; from what I can tell, his sole purpose in the play is expository and to provide some frills, like a special options package on a new vehicle. In this case, the frills are laughs, and Oakes gets more than his share in a splendid performance. His character is an odd combination of slick salesman and environmental activist. He too is a widower, forever pining over his lost love. Oakes finds nuances in the character that are both hilarious and touching.
Jeff DeSisto is dead-solid perfect as Becky’s insolent son, Chris, who inadvertently takes up with Walter’s daughter, Kenni, played beautifully by Erin Elliott. The always striking Rae Mancini plays Ginger, a lumber heiress who loses everything but her self-respect when Washington state’s rain forests run dry.
The ingenious Peckham works wonders with Dietz’s convoluted script, displaying the absurdity and charity in our imperfect species with a deft hand and using the myriad talents of his cast like a maestro conducting an orchestra.
2nd Story’s fetching production may be a rough ride for Becky, but for audiences it is a delightful diversion into the dreamscape of endless possibilities that only live theater can provide. So buckle-up and take the ride! You’ll be glad you did.