Monday, May 21 , 2018, 6:44 am | Mostly Cloudy 54º

 
 
 
 

Review: SBCC Theatre’s ‘Becky’s New Car’ Well Worth the Ride

Steven Dietz was commissioned to write Becky’s New Car as a gift from a Seattle man to his wife on her 60th birthday. The love at the heart of his gesture seems to permeate this warm and funny theatrical offering. And under the direction of Katie Laris at the intimate Jurkowitz Theatre on the SBCC campus, the current production by the SBCC Theatre Group is a delight. The action moves among several different locations with just a shift of the lighting, keeping everything moving along smoothly.

Leslie Gangl Howe, who plays Becky, is a seasoned local actress with talent to spare. As a woman managing all of the usual complications of family life, work and an impending midlife crisis, she draws the audience into her confidence from the opening moments of the play. She scurries around tidying up with a dust-buster, embarrassed at the audience catching her with a messy living room, and attempting to get them caught up on all the issues in her life.

Yes, she addresses the audience, as individuals. She even asks for their help with some of her housework. Sitting in the front row is a great way to get drawn into the action. Howe is a wonderful storyteller, and her facial expressions and comic delivery are priceless.

While Becky works in a car dealership, and does indeed receive a new car eventually, the story is really about the pain of seeking something beyond one’s lot in life, the courage necessary to step away from the familiar and reflections on redemption.

As Becky’s roofer husband, Joe, Tom Hinshaw is warm and down-to-earth. Another veteran actor, he has the ability to command the space even when his character doesn’t appear to be doing anything. Added depth comes when the discovery is made that Joe is easygoing but not a doormat.

Martin Bell is Walter, the mystery man who shakes up Becky’s comfortably frazzled life. He is dry and droll, and just charming enough to make her actions believable.

Josh Jenkins and Bre Piantanida are poised and surprisingly mature as the twenty-somethings: Joe and Becky’s son and Walter’s daughter, respectively.

Jon Koons and Melissa Morgan Squire play solid supporting roles. Steve is a car salesman and friend of the family, while Ginger is a society gal down on her luck. Squire, by the way, does a fantastic low-key drunken slur, befitting a respectable pillar of the community.

As the action careens through the second act, things start to feel out of control, and the audience cannot be blamed for squirming in their seats. But in the end, after all has been untangled, Becky finds her way home.

There is a delicious realness to the characters’ actions — no one is perfect, sometimes there is regret — but there is also real love and empathy waiting on the other side of the front door. Isn’t that the best we can all hope for?

Becky’s New Car runs through May 11. Click here for tickets and information.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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