Please note all audience members of The Lofte Community Theatre are required to follow a COVID-19 safety plan reviewed by Sarpy/Cass Health Department. Full information is available here.
We’re familiar with the stereotype of the “midlife crisis”; the middle-aged man clinging to his youth by buying a new car or leaving his wife for a younger, hotter prototype. But what happens to a middle-aged married woman going through the motions of her mundane life?
The Lofte Community Theatre in Manley, NE presents Becky’s New Car by Steven Dietz, a modern approach to an age-old story. Escapism in this regard is an understatement. Unhappy wife Becky Foster doesn’t just want a new car — she wants an entirely new life. Fantasy meets reality in the form of a clandestine rendezvous spinning out of control.
Starring Anne Pope as Becky, the play hums along with impeccable timing, juxtaposed with subtle, metaphorical nuances. Directed by Lofte Artistic Director Kevin Colbert, Pope is a natural at conveying the exasperation and longing she feels in her humdrum day-to-day, pushing her to embark upon a scandalous double life.
Most of the cast slips easily into the abounding archetypes that are scripted, no doubt for the sheer enjoyment of the audience. The show’s actual stage manager, the genial Brenna Thompson, gets a moment in the spotlight when she assists Pope during a modest quick change on stage, delightfully breaking the fourth wall. And that is partly what makes it so fun.
In fact, the entire audience is invited in to become a part of the story. Becky engages with the audience as guests in her own home. We watch larger-than-life characters exposed and vulnerable, and the not so pretty flaws that make even unlikable characters human and relatable. Life imitates art. Or is it the other way around?
Becky’s son Chris (Wade Mumford) is a grad student dwelling in his parent’s basement who has an uncanny knack for being a know-it-all. He is readily available to offer an armchair diagnosis of the situation at hand, often to his mother’s chagrin and annoyance. Lovingly described as an “eternal freeloader” by Becky, Chris is the epitome of the loafer son trope. Mumford captures the character’s essence adeptly, lounging around until he meets a girl at a party, then stepping it into high gear to win her affection.
JJ Davis portrays a socially awkward yet endearing Walter Flood, a magnate seen on billboards everywhere. His fondness for Becky blossoms unexpectedly after he mistakes her for a widow. Becky, on the other hand, sees no problem with playing with fire. As they say, no harm, no foul.
As the story moves into the sphere of influence, wealth, and highbrow culture, we catch a glimpse of how the other half lives. Cut to a few brief scenes featuring other secondary characters, such as Walter’s aloof, privileged daughter Kensington Hermoine Flood, (CeCe Hastreiter), who balks at the thought of marrying her debutante-seeking boyfriend. Despite being consumed with status and image, Kenni has her own merits, Her interactions with Walter shows she cares about preserving her late mother’s memory and the way things used to be, and she’s willing to let Becky in.
A dryly humorous Kirsten Wood plays a wealthy neighbor, Ginger, who has lost her fortune, her affluent lifestyle, and the prestige that comes with it, adding an interesting foil to Becky.
Other notable performances are Steve, (Mark Kocsis), Becky’s boss who lives in the past after enduring the loss of his wife. The portrayal is sentimental and at times even poignant. Becky’s roofer husband Joe, (Doug Rothgeb) always gets the short end of the stick in their marriage, but his droll, deadpan delivery is near perfection.
Costumes by Tami Krueger have a contemporary edge and feel, with most items consisting from the actors’ own wardrobes. A modern unit set with lighting design by Scott Seelhoff offers a fluidity in its staging, with emphasis on the fourth wall’s absence and fast paced segues.
A prevalent motif is the pattern of coincidences and synchronicity, with the characters’ interwoven connections at the forefront. There’s comedy, but no shortage of drama. A somber moment in the show to reflect upon: what if Becky leaves her life behind only to drive off in the distance forever? The dramatic scene toys with the idea but centers on a much happier ending.
Becky’s New Car careens down a road of hilarious, twisting fate, with a plot that comes full circle in the way only clever farce and drama can deliver. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes it’s not. And sometimes you just need a change of scenery, if only temporary, just to appreciate what really matters in life.
Remaining performances of Becky’s New Car at the Lofte Community Theater in Manley, NE are September 11th-13th at 7PM, with Sunday matinee performances at 2 PM.
Socially distanced seating is still available, make reservations at 402.234.2553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.