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True North Theatre gets it in gear - ‘Becky’s New Car’

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True North Theatre gets it in gear - ‘Becky’s New Car’ (Photo courtesy of True North Theatre/Chris Goetting - RCS Maine)

New Orono theater company mounts its inaugural production

ORONO - “When a woman says she needs new shoes, what she really wants is a new job. When she says she needs a new house, she wants a new husband, and when she says she wants a new car, she wants a new life.”

Becky Foster speaks those words near the beginning of “Becky’s New Car,” the story of one woman’s decision to allow a little adventure into her life, but her methods of breaking out of her routine – of reaching for that new life – wind up presenting obstacles both expected and unanticipated.

A production of this play, written by Steven Dietz, is serving as the inaugural offering from True North Theatre, a new theatre company based in Orono. Directed by Angela Bonacasa – also True North’s artistic director – the show runs through July 30 at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theatre on the University of Maine’s Orono campus. 

Becky (Amy Moran) is a woman who has entered into middle age with a perfectly acceptable life. She lives in a Pacific Northwest city with her family. She loves her husband, a hardworking roofer named Joe (David Lane), and she loves her psychology grad student son Chris (Jake Sherburne) even though he’s 26 and still living in the basement and won’t introduce his new girlfriend to the family.

Her job – office manager at a car dealership – isn’t the best; she works too hard and too long for not enough money. Still, it’s a job. Her co-worker Steve (Tellis Coolong) is nice enough, though his continuing grief at the tragic loss of his wife a year ago has made him a little odd.

But Becky’s orderly life is thrown into disarray when Walter Flood (Mark Bilyk) walks through the door one night. A billboard magnate, multi-millionaire Walter is in search of gifts for his employees. Cars, namely – nine of them. He’s also a widower who is immediately intrigued by Becky; when misinterpreted phrasing leads him to believe that Becky has also lost a spouse, she chooses not to correct him.

Before long, she’s being invited to lavish dinner parties at Walter’s mansion. She’s meeting his daughter Kenni (Eric Veazey) and his old friend Ginger (Bunny Barclay) – both of whom have some suspicions regarding Becky’s motives.

And she’s telling a LOT of lies.

She’s lying to her husband about the long hours she’s away, talking about a promotion and her responsibilities at a new dealership. She’s lying to Walter about her husband and the reasons why she won’t stay with him for the weekend. Steve, Chris, Kenni, Ginger – Becky is lying to them all.

Eventually, the weight of all this untruth causes Becky’s story to unravel. And when an unexpected set of circumstances leads to a unique potential solution, she has to decide, once and for all, what kind of a life she really wants – and what she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

“Becky’s New Car” is a challenging piece, one that features a complex protagonist and a willingness to muck around with theatrical convention. There’s a lot of murky morality and plenty of fourth wall-busting audience interaction. Narrative threads are stretched in all directions, with only Becky herself capable of navigating them fully – with a little help from the other characters, the audience and even the tech crew.

Director Bonacasa meets that challenge by embracing the relatively tight quarters of the Pavilion Theatre, sending her cast up, down and around the space, pushing the show into every corner of the three-sided audience. It’s a show defined by sharp, clean leaps of movement, quick-fire dialogue and layered emotional engagement – Bonacasa mines all three from her cast.

That cast is led by Moran as Becky. It’s a tour de force role; the show simply doesn’t work without a capable performance from the lead. Becky has to engage with EVERYBODY – the cast, the crew, the audience – in an honest way. We have to like her even as she makes decisions that aren’t particularly likeable; no easy task. But Moran makes it happen; in her hands, Becky manages to come off as both laid-back and tightly wound. It’s an intriguing combination that works well; there’s an aw-shucks sweetness that clicks no matter who she’s interacting with.

The rest of the ensemble fills in nicely around Moran. Bilyk exudes an effortless charisma as Walter, giving the character a gentle smoothness that not only fits him, but also serves as a lovely counterpoint to the rough edges of Lane’s good-naturedly gruff Joe. Sherburne does good work portraying Chris’s big heart while peppering the room with jargon. Coolong’s Steve is a picture of static sadness, misery trapped in amber – and he makes it funny. Barclay charms as the genteel Ginger, while Veazey drops occasional pinches of salt in with her general sweetness as Kenni.

The production team – set designer Tricia Hobbs, lighting designer Scout Hough, costume designer Clare Bolduc, sound designer Phillip Wright – has created a wonderfully cohesive world in which this play can exist. Hobbs maximizes the Pavilion’s spatial potential in some compelling ways, while Hough’s lights do a marvelously specific job of stage delineation. Wright has produced an original score for the piece that adds a distinct and memorable layer to the proceedings.

Put it all together and you’ve got a pretty darned good piece of theater. This production of “Becky’s New Car” is impressive; the fact that it’s True North Theatre’s first time out of the gate doubly so. It’s a solid inaugural effort from the Orono group; I look forward to seeing what’s coming down the road.

(Tickets for True North Theatre’s production of “Becky’s New Car” are available in advance online at www.truenorththeatre.bpt.me or at the door the day of the show. For more information, visit www.truenorththeatre.org or find them on Facebook.)

Last modified on Friday, 21 July 2017 11:10

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