Monday, December 02, 2013

Actress Celeste Oliva Gets Great Mileage Out of "Becky's New Car" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston

I am going to shamelessly launch myself over the punning cliff by stating up front that IRNE Award-winning actress Celeste Oliva has turned the current Lyric Stage production of "Becky's New Car" into a streamlined vehicle that demonstrates the full range of her protean acting abilities.  She is, quite simply, the drive train and chassis for this show.  All of the other fine actors who make up the ensemble serve as useful accessories that smooth out the ride upon which playwright Steven Dietz takes the audience.

Celeste Oliva as Becky

Becky lays out the theme of this play in the first scene.  She address the audience in one of many instances in which the actors break the fourth wall.  

"When a women says she needs a new car, what she is really saying is that she needs a new life."

In this two act play, directed by Larry Coen,  we see Becky inadvertently drawn into a complex web of circumstances and relationships that make it possible for her to discover a new life.  She has to decide if she wants to have a fling with one of the richest men in Seattle, a widower who mistakenly assumes that Becky's husband has also died.  The complications that ensue are both hilarious and poignant.  This comedy addresses serious questions about marriage, fidelity, happiness, forgiveness and self-actualization.

The set has been designed by Shelley Barish as an over-sized game board for Chutes and Ladders, implying that the lives that Becky and her fellow characters are living out have elements of a game in which they are moving around the game board of life in pre-determined patterns.  Sometimes they figuratively "roll the dice" to decide in which direction to head and how far to go.

The cast features:

Mike Dorval as Joe Foster, Beck's roof repairman husband

Alex Marz as Chris, Becky and Joe's grad student son

Will McGarrahan as Walter Flood, Becky's "Sugar Daddy"

Samantha Richert as Kenni Flood, Walter's petulant daughter

Jaime Carrillo as Steve, Becky's cohort at the auto dealership where they both work

Kortney Adams as Ginger, a trust fund baby whose funds have dried up

The character of Chris, as written by Mr. Dietz, is the most interesting of the secondary characters, and is played perfectly by Mr. Marz.  His psychology grad student Ivory Tower psycho babble stands in marked contrast to the very practical wrestling with every day existential dilemmas that Becky faces.  His commentary on others' actions is pure academic theory and cant.  He comes across as a one man "Geek Chorus"! He may have a text book understanding of the term "self-actualization ," but is mother is getting her hands dirty and dismantling the engine of her life to discover how to tune it up and make it run in a more satisfying manner.

The play offers the audience plenty of opportunities for laughter, and just as many opportunities for sober reflection.  As played by Ms. Oliva, Becky is a complex, flawed human being for whom we are rooting all the way through, even when her actions call into question her character.

On occasion, I found the breaking of the fourth wall a bit gimmicky, but for the most part it served to invite the audience members to identify with Becky and the other characters.

This second play of the new Lyric Stage of Boston season is worthy of your attention.  It makes a great holiday excursion.  Take a trip to the Lyric and enjoy the ride!  The audience on Sunday afternoon  seemed to get a great deal of enjoyment out of their trip with Becky.



Becky's New Car
by Steven Dietz 

Directed by Larry Coen

Running time: Approximately 2 hours.
Box Office: 617-585-5678 |
Production sponsored by Tim & Linda Holiner
Becky's life isn't exactly unhappy — but from her desk at a car dealership she can't help but wonder what else is out there. And then she finds out. When a wealthy suitor presumes she is a widow, she finds herself leading a double life that quickly accelerates out of her control. This clever and witty new comedy takes us on one woman’s unexpected, hilarious, and ultimately moving escape from the midlife doldrums.
“A satisfying comedy of modern manners . . . one that derives as much power from its humanity as its fine-tuned craftsmanship.” - Seattle Times
The show runs through December 22.

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