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Gerald Carpenter: SBCC Theatre Group Rolls Out ‘Becky’s New Car’

The fine, quasi-professional Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College wraps up its 2012-13 season with a new production of a new comedy, Steven Dietz’s Becky’s New Car.

The play is directed by Katie Laris, with costumes by Pamela Shaw, sets and lighting by François-Pierre Couture, sound design by Barbara Hirsch, and starring Leslie Gangl Howe, Martin Bell, Tom Hinshaw, Josh Jenkins, Jon Koons, Melissa Morgan Squire and Bre Piantanida.

For all its trappings of mundane, everyday reality, Becky’s New Car is, in fact, a kind of fairy tale. Everything about Becky is middle — middle age, middle class, middle management, middle to average marriage. Then, while Becky works at her desk in a car dealership, a drunken millionaire stumbles in to take the role of fairy godmother in her life. At that moment, Becky’s life moves from the middle to the edge, and beyond.

Laris puts it this way: “Becky Foster, the central character in Steven Dietz’s play Becky’s New Car has a life filled with everyday chaos. Between trying to keep minimal order in her home, take care of her family, tackle some part of the pile of papers on her desk at work and just get through the day cheerfully despite the economic downturn her family has experienced, there just doesn’t seem to be time in her life to relish anything or anyone. ...

“The generosity of spirit as epitomized by the warmth of the characters may have its roots in the play origins: Becky’s New Car was commissioned by a Seattle man who wanted to give his theater-loving wife a very special present for her 60th birthday. Dietz had no restrictions placed on him, but it seems that the love which inspired the play may have guided the playwright in crafting characters that all share a level of compassion which manages to imbue the play with an enduring sweetness despite its central theme of a life and a marriage in, to quote Becky, ‘flux.’

“Also notable about the play is the manner in which the playwright explicitly involves, in this theater, about 100 other characters: the audience. From the moment the play begins, each of you is invited along as a backseat driver for Becky’s adventure. Accessing a tradition of storytelling in which the narrator gets to shape the story for her own ends, Dietz allows Becky to involve the audience to gain support, assistance and friendship. This involvement, I think, compels the audience to directly experience one of the plays major themes: transformation. Specifically, to be involved in the transformation of the characters each of whom change over the course of the play.”

Becky’s New Car opens Wednesday and runs through May 11 in the intimate — i.e., no late seating — Jurkowitz Theatre. Previews are scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday, then plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sundays, with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. May 4 and May 11.

Tickets for the preview nights are $16 for general admission, $13 for seniors and $8 for students; on Friday and Saturday evenings, $23 for general, $18 for seniors and $15 students; and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, $21 general, $16 for seniors and $12 for students. Call the Garvin Theatre box office at 805.965.5935 for reservations and information. Click here to purchase tickets online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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