A Waning Metaphor 

The Specific Appeal of Becky's New Car

ARTISTS REPERTORY THEATRE'S PRODUCTION of Becky's New Car presents a dilemma, from this reviewer's perspective. Namely, there's simply no way that I, as a 26-year-old woman, could ever fully enjoy it. Nothing against the possibility of art to expand horizons, to bring to life new and strange ways of being, but Becky's New Car isn't offering transcendence—it's offering diversion, and of a very specific sort. The show is about the love affairs of middle age, associating the illicit thrill of adultery with the reckless sexiness of flooring a new car on the open highway. And that correlation just doesn't gel outside of its demographic, which I'll diplomatically say skews just a few years older than myself.

Becky (Marilyn Stacey) works for a car dealership; she has an affable marriage with her roofer husband ("affable" here being a thinly veiled euphemism for "sexless"), and their son, a grad student in psychology, lives in the basement. When Becky meets Walter (David Bodin), an attractive, wealthy widower, she allows him to think that her husband is dead, and begins pursuing an affair that soon has her lying to her friends, coworkers, and family.

Becky's story unfolds on a single set, divided into quadrants containing four distinct locations: her home, her office, her car, and her rich lover's patio. Playwright Steven Dietz is enamored of meta flourishes that have Becky occasionally conferring with the lighting operator when she wants to move from one location to another, transitions that become increasingly frantic as Becky's control over her life begins to slip. She also addresses the audience directly for much of the play, even introducing some low-stakes audience participation.

Becky's New Car is a parlor comedy moved to the open road, and its metaphorical core reflects a markedly dated sensibility. Becky is happiest when she's in the car, alone—when traffic is light, the radio's on, and the road stretches out before her. This is a mom fantasy (a mom who's never heard the phrase "peak oil"). There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I suspect it takes a messy house full of children before relaxation becomes synonymous with a discrete, self-propelling environment that's entirely in your own control—and a few years of unhappy marriage before an escapist fantasy like this one becomes relatable.

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