Sunday, May 13, 2012

Actors' Playhouse: Becky's New Car (3 reviews)

Actors Playhouse at the Miracle Theater opened its production of Becky's New Car on May 9, 2012.
A smart, comic cruise through the perils of middle-aged longing and regret, Becky’s New Car, is a laugh-out-loud amusement park ride where the comedy spins out of control like a bumper car. In this new play, playwright Steven Dietz maps out a very funny and touching trip about “the life not taken”. Becky is married in her 40’s and working at a car dealership, when one night, by chance, she’s offered an opportunity to step into another life, and takes it. This fresh, new, delightful and devious comedy is about life, love, marriage, and the detours we make on our way to happiness.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Laura Turnbull, Allen Baker, Ryan Didato, Francisco Paduro, Ann Chamberlain, Kim Ostrenko, and Ken Clement.

Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
A word here about a couple of actors who never seem to have a bad day on stage. Laura Turnbull and Ken Clement. Put them together and don't take time to blink. You might miss something that would've stuck with you for a long, long time.

Actors' Playhouse has the great good fortune to have the two of them in Becky's New Car... While Turnbull is undoubtedly the star of the show, and Clement, in essence, is supporting, it is he who we remember as bringing the solidity, the surprised hurt, the ability to carry on, but not all that pleasantly, that raises this comedy, almost a farce at times, to its level of theatre art rather than just sitting there as another slick sit com. Clement digs deep.

And fortunately for us, it's not all about Clement, for Turnbull, on stage in almost every scene, has the house wound tight in anticipation each time she speaks. And she doesn't miss a step.
David Arisco's direction, Dietz' s writing and the performances on stage in Becky's New Car had me hustling back from intermission, eager for more.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Dietz’s insightful script, David Arisco’s assured direction and a deceptively deft cast led by the ever-engaging Laura Turnbull as Becky deliver a thoroughly entertaining comedy that will give your mind something substantial to mull over long after the house lights come on.
Arisco is perfectly at home helming this mixture of gentle comedy and modern angst. He keeps the evening moving smoothly and unerringly toward the quickening climax and the honest aftermath in the morning light.
As far as the cast, once again, Turnbull is so bloody good that only her colleagues will appreciate how her seemingly naturalistic style hides so much craft that the result borders on alchemy. Her Becky is so immensely likeable that we happily ignore the fact that she’s flirting with being unfaithful... it’s easy to forget how skilled a comedienne she can be, blessed with flawless technique.

Double that praise for Clement’s portrayal of the steadfastly decent blue-collar husband. Under Arisco’s direction, he exhibits superb comic timing and a deadpan delivery that can wring a laugh out of almost any line he chooses. But belying that doughy clown’s face, his real achievement is communicating Joe’s pain underneath his facile quips and stoic expression.
Baker, seen here primarily in those light summer revues favored by the Playhouse, creates a delightfully idiosyncratic multi-millionaire who you want to protect from the vagaries of the cruel world.
The rest of the cast is just as solid: ...Padura gets to veer out of control in silly rants, Didato.. convincingly exudes that unwarranted condescension that young adults feel toward their parents. Ostrenko renders a portrait of a rue-filled Scarlett O’Hara puzzling out a life after Tara. And Chamberlain... invests Walter’s daughter with warmth and intelligence.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
In Steven Dietz’s Becky’s New Car, a delightful and mildly interactive comedy that has just opened at Actors’ Playhouse, the heroine gets that new car. And at great risk, she test-drives that new life.
Director David Arisco, who has proven his talent at staging all kinds of theater, has an affinity for comedy. In this case, like a master mechanic, he knows how to fine-tune each laugh so that Becky’s New Car just sails along, even over the scattered potholes in Dietz’s script. He blends the slightly different comedic styles of a talented cast into a cohesive, funny, sometimes poignant whole.
Turnbull drives the play as Becky... The Carbonell Award-winning actress is, as always, a smart performer who can speak volumes with the smallest shift in her expression or intonation. Ken Clement embraces the regular-guy persona of Becky’s husband Joe but grows ever more interesting as he takes a little vengeful comedic glee in making Becky squirm and, in subtle but devastating ways, communicates Joe’s pain.
Allan Baker is a quirky hoot... A goofy, appealing farceur, Baker makes the stylistic difference in his performance work to help make Walter a clear alternative to Joe.
Becky’s New Car has its dents and dings. You know certain characters will wind up together from the moment you meet them. The swerve into seriousness threatens, near the end of the show, to send it flying off its solid, successful comedic ground. But given the play’s mostly smooth ride, you may be laughing so hard that those little imperfections won’t matter.
Becky's New Car plays at Actors' Playhouse through June 3, 2012.

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