The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, June 25, 2010, Arts

Becky's New Car

Zach Theatre Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey, 476-0541,

Through July 11, running time: 2 hr., 10 min.

Before I go off on a big tangent, I'll address the basic stuff. Becky's New Car is a fun play about a woman who accidentally winds up in an extramarital affair. It's an ensemble comedy written and, at Zach Theatre, directed by Steven Dietz; the actors in Zach's production (led by the excellent Lauren Lane as Becky) look like they're having a great time; and the costumes by Ariana Schwartz are eye-catching.

Now the tangent: When I was in college, the director of some department or other mentioned to me that he was rereading King Lear. "It makes sense to me now in a way it just didn't when I read it in undergrad," he said. "It's just more profound now."

There are some plays (and novels and films and operas and so on) that are like that. It's not like King Lear is useless to a 19-year-old or that an undergraduate's insights into the play aren't valuable. Only, the context you get from living through the next 20 years gives a certain perspective on the work. Our Town, which Zach Theatre also produced earlier this year, is another of those plays where slightly older audience members pick up something from the play that younger people don't see, at least not in the same way.

I have a suspicion that I'm not yet old enough to appreciate fully Becky's New Car. (I'm 31, by the way.) I saw other audience members about my age having a great time, so please, don't stay away if you're not yet collecting Social Security. Rather, the sadness that lurks within this lovely comedy is one that I and my peers are currently viewing from a relative distance.

However, since Zach is not likely to extend the play's run by 20 years, I'll take my best shot at describing it now. Becky's New Car tells a story centered around what might be passed off as ennui. It's a confrontation with the compromises people make to achieve a level of comfort in their daily lives. The play also takes place at a point when Becky's marriage has become deeply familiar after many years in one place. Not boring, necessarily, but deeply familiar. "Midlife crisis" carries too shallow a connotation. It's more of an extreme midlife confusion that puts Becky and all her loved ones at risk.

I suspect that Becky's New Car may also be an excellent substitution for the usual premarital counseling offered to engaged couples. It's a little like the gruesome videos they showed you in driver's ed to scare you into driving nicely; except in Becky's New Car, there is more than death. There is also hope.

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