The formula for Becky’s New Car should be a familiar one—a woman with a grown child, a lived in marriage, and a dead end job begins to think about getting out. But there’s something new here, both in the way that the story is told, and in the angle from which it is approached. And with Leslie Gangl Howe in the lead, and a team of strong supporting players including Tom Hinshaw and Jon Koons on board, there’s a lot to like about this New Car. To begin with, there’s a certain degree of playful audience interaction built in to the script. As Becky Foster, Howe solicits the advice of women in the audience about her next moves, she asks a man to help her with some paper work at the office, and she even invites some of the front row along with her to a party. It’s all handled with fine timing and comic intuition, and on the night I saw the show, everyone involved greeted this element with enthusiasm.
The drama that it accompanies shares aspects with the better sort of situation comedies: a lazy son who lives at home, an overly sensitive coworker who can’t stop talking about himself, and a long suffering husband at home whose classic response to most things is to offer whoever’s around a beer. Yet Josh Jenkins, as the son, is funny and moving, Jon Koons as the coworker is hilarious and full of energy, and Tom Hinshaw as the husband Joe, well let’s just say that he’s the rock on which this whole thing rests. Or should that be the jack that lifts this Car?
Without spoiling too much of the plot, it can be revealed that Becky’s big dilemma involves another man, the wealthy billboard tycoon Walter Flood (Martin Bell), and that through a series of coincidences, many of them involving complicated cross-conversations (that’s when two people talk about two different things, but somehow manage to do it together), her fantasy gets a little bit realized, and a little bit not. The genre of the woman’s midlife crisis play has existed in a comfortable state of predictable empowerment for a long time, but Becky’s New Car puts that old machine back in drive.