Love In the Fast Lane
Melozzi makes Becky a bubbly delight from the get-go.by Bill Rodriguez, The Providence Phoenix
What’s your fantasy of a complete life makeover? In Tahiti under a palm tree? In Las Vegas sporting a diamond stickpin? Well, in Steve Dietz’s Becky’s New Car, hard-working Rebecca Foster doesn’t know what hers is at first, but when she decides, it’s a much more complicated dream than she had anticipated.
Directed with careful and entertaining attention to character by Mark Peckham, the comedy is prompting laughter at 2nd Story Theatre (through June 1).
Becky (Margaret Melozzi) has been overworked and overlooked for nine years as title clerk and office manager at Buckley’s Lexis/Nissan/Saturn/Mitsubishi dealership. Her husband of 28 years, Joe (Kerry Callery), is an amiable blue-collar guy, a roofer. Their lazy 26-year-old son Chris (Jeff DeSisto) is still a permanent fixture at home, a psychology major who likes to spout jargon like “reciprocal determinism” but is bad at applying any insights to himself.
This is a play that works up a sweat pulling us into it — literally: Becky addresses the audience and even tugs some members up on stage to help out.
Early on she shares a friend’s observation that when a woman says she wants a car, what she really wants is a new life. When late one night a multi-millionaire walks into her office and places a big order, Becky ends up getting a new car as a bonus, but the accompanying new life is full of screeching hairpin turns.
Melozzi makes Becky a bubbly delight from the get-go. This character clearly has been idling too long and needs a guy to take her for a spin, open her up, and see what she can do. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
That man who ordered the cars — nine of them, thank you gifts to employees — is Walter, an outrageously broad comical character who is given a solid, sympathetic reality by Vince Petronio. Sophisticated Walter, quite a contrast to anyone in Becky’s simple world, is promptly attracted to the frazzled clerk (hey, if you want a realistic play, try Mamet). Romance ensues. He’s a widower, but also such a fast talker that in their first conversation she can never correct his misunderstanding, his thinking that she’s a widow.
At the dealership, co-worker Steve (F. William Oakes) is tossed into the story to up the existential ante with a dark tale of marital tragedy that puts Becky’s life in perspective. Steve is obsessed by the loss of his wife, who fell off a mountain next to him. The playwright has dark fun giving him a crazed monologue describing the incident, and Oakes has quite a workout venting Steve’s hysteria. Another incidental character, Walter’s daughter Kenni (Erin Elliott), ends up tied into the story in an interesting way.
Part of Becky’s bonus was to get three weeks off, which she doesn’t tell her husband about. Instead, she spends the weekdays at Walter’s place, while Joe thinks she’s at work.
Act II begins at a party at one of Walter’s posh retreats. Becky meets Ginger (Rae Mancini), whom Walter’s late wife had said would “swoop right in” upon her demise. But Ginger is far too stylish to swoop, though her wealth has diminished to the point of having to sell her boats, so she is motivated to at least glide by. Poor Becky is nearly out of breath, what with all this double-life deception, but circumstances are conspiring to bring her running to a halt. All her convoluted relationships end up straightened out by the conclusion, with no one worse for the wear and tear.
There’s nothing so didactic as a lesson imparted here, just a message acted out like in a game of charades. People might dream longingly of a fresh life, but if they ever attain such, they can’t avoid fitting it into the one they’re already living.
Steve Dietz, who has penned more than 30 dramas and comedies, is one of the most frequently produced playwrights in the country. Local theatergoers might remember his Shooting Star, staged at Trinity Repertory Company in 2009, a romantic comedy that, like Becky’s New Car, doesn’t overlook the unavoidable changeability built into love.