Saturday, July 2, 2011

REVIEW: ‘Becky’s New Car’ is a ticket well worth the ride

Becky (Geraldine Librandi) takes a drive. PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

Speeding along with just the right amount of humor, conflict and a heartbreaking detour, the Banyan Theater Company’s production of Steven Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car” amounts to a must-see joy ride.
Deftly directed by Gil Lazier, the comedy of manners rests on the shoulders of fourth wall-busting Becky, who is played by the immensely gifted Geraldine Librandi — you might recognize her from several episodes of the “The Sopranos.”

Don Walker, Jesse Dornan and Geraldine Librandi. PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

The play starts with Becky immediately inviting the audience, which packed the 161-seat capacity Jane B. Cook Theatre on opening night Thursday, into her working-class living room. She’s in the middle of cleaning and within moments of being on stage, hands a front row audience member a roll of toilet paper and says “Could you put this in the bathroom when you go?”

Becky (Geraldine Librandi) at work. PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

It’s not the first time an actor in “Becky’s New Car” will interact with the crowd. I usually find crossing the fourth wall gimmicky. But aside from when Becky brings three women on stage to help her get dressed for a big night out, I felt each instance worked, adding to the intimacy of the play.

Walter (Peter Thomasson) and Becky (Librandi). PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

So, Becky’s cleaning house and telling us about her life. We quickly learn her roofer husband Joe (Don Walker) is a good man but not exactly thrilling after nearly three decades of marriage. Their 26-year-old son Chris (Jesse Dornan) studies psychology and lives in the basement. Becky is an overworked office manager at a car dealership. Her life could be better, sure, but it’s not bad.

Becky (Librandi) and Joe (Walker) kissing. PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

The play kicks into high gear when Becky meets famed billboard mogul Walter Flood (Peter Thomasson) who’s recently widowed and the grieving process has made him a bit daft. He misinterprets Becky’s’ comments about her husband, concluding he’s dead. She allows the rich, handsome prince charming in need of a companion to believe the lie and runs with it.

Steve (Robert Mowry) and Becky (Librandi). PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

The second act largely consists of a series of hilarious mistaken identity incidents involving the entire, highly talented, seven-person cast. The triple-focus living room/auto dealership office/Flood home on a riser set of designer Richard Cannon proves ideal for the madness.

Walter (Peter Thomasson) and Becky (Librandi). PHOTO BY GARY SWEETMAN.

By the time Dietz cleverly ties up all the loose ends we our left with more than just an evening of laugh-out-loud moments — not that there’s anything wrong with such a comedy. But what makes “Becky’s New Car” really shine is that it also serves as a moving meditation on matrimony, infidelity and coping mechanisms. Yes, it’s a true joy ride.

Details: June 30-July 17, The Jane B. Cook Theatre, FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $28.50/$8 with student I.D. Information: (941) 358-5330 or

Story ran in Bradenton Herald on July 3. 

No comments: