Limelight’s show explores the question: what would you do if you could just leave it all behind?
By Calvin Nuttall
When a handsome widower wanders into “Becky Foster’s” mundane life and whisks her away, she finds herself torn between her daily responsibilities and the excitement she craves. The comedic drama “Becky’s New Car” explores what happens when an ordinary woman takes the road not often traveled.
Limelight Theatre’s latest play opens Aug. 4 in downtown Gilroy’s Center for the Arts. Written by Steven Dietz, the show takes South Valley audiences along with the middle-aged protagonist on a delightful and rebellious ride.
The married “Becky” (Denee Lewis) works as an office-manager at a car dealership. She faces a complicated mid-life crisis when a handsome millionaire named “Walter Flood” (Rob Christopher) arrives to buy a large number of cars as gifts for his employees. The show becomes a delightful romp down the road not often taken as her soul is pulled in two directions, romantically and socially, said director Andrew Cummings.
“It’s about a woman who was living a regular life,” he said. “She had bills to pay and jobs to work. But she, like all of us, was sometimes a little dissatisfied with that.”
The cast swirling around her suddenly chaotic life include her husband “Joe Foster” (Robert Sean Campbell), college-age son “Chris” (Alex Topete), coworker “Steve” (Bruce Pember), “Walter’s” daughter “Kenni” (Jenna Hernandez) and Walter’s single neighbor “Ginger” (Joyce Bedard).
“‘Becky’ gets an opportunity to go on a little bit of an unexpected adventure, and she has to make some complicated choices along the way,” Cummings said. “Her escape from her regular life at times is really fun but has the potential to hurt some of the people around her. So she has to make some decisions in terms of what she wants for herself.”
Equal parts escapist and relatable, the story revolves around a central question: can “Becky” have it all? She launches herself from her mundane, stressful, middle-class life into a glamorous world of wealth and parties. Her responsibilities to her family and career pull back on her in a tug-of-war that creates the fundamental conflict of the show.
“You are really rooting for ‘Becky,’” Cummings said. “She is just so likable and charismatic, and she has a great sense of humor. You want her to have her cake and eat it, too. Eventually, it becomes clear that is not possible.”
Performing the title role has been a fun and unique challenge, Lewis said. The character is complicated, both likable and flawed in a way that makes her compelling.
“She was very content with her life,” Lewis said. “But it was exhausting and overwhelming, and I don’t think she even realized how much of a weight it was. So when the opportunity to escape came along, it’s like she hadn’t even realized she needed it.”
Audience members should be ready to get swept up in the adventure alongside “Becky,” Lewis said.
“I don’t feel alone up there,” she said. “I’m bringing all of my friends along with me on this. I think it is going to be a unique experience for everyone.”
Mirroring “Becky’s” pursuit of opulence and glamor, “Walter” is a man with more than his fair share of luxury — but nonetheless, he also feels the crushing mundanity of life and wishes for something more.
“Despite that he has a comfortable life, he is a little bit lost and rudderless,” Christopher said. “But he brings some terrific perspectives on life. Here is somebody who comes from a completely different point of view and brings a certain maturity to it — and sense of optimism and opportunity. I like this role, and I see a lot of myself in him.”
Ultimately, “Becky” must find a way to balance her dual lives and reconcile her selfish desires with the demands of reality.
“You could say that she deserves to be a little bit selfish,” Cummings said. “She gives and gives, and she doesn’t ask for a lot back. By the time she makes that first selfish decision, you think, well, good for her. She has earned it. And then the question becomes: how many selfish decisions is she allowed to make before she has crossed a line?”
With its complex relationships and flawed characters, the show will have audience members constantly questioning the characters’ morality, Christopher said.
“We’re all enjoying the challenge of it, and Andrew is doing his best to bring out our more conflicted selves,” he said. “We’re supposed to walk the line in between that, like in real life, is a bit ambiguous. Sometimes we lean a little bit this way, sometimes a little bit that way.”
Playwright Dietz masterfully portrays everyday experiences in a relatable and engaging way, Campbell said. With understated scenes and subtle theatrical devices, the story remains personal and accessible rather than over-the-top dramatic.
“The way he writes and stages is very inclusive and engaging in a way I think most theater productions aren’t,” he said. “The stage setting is not presentational — you’re going to feel like you’re part of it. I wonder if this audience has ever experienced this type of show.”
Contributing to that intimate feel is the up-close-and-personal layout of the Limelight Theatre stage, which brings the audience almost within reach of the performers. Rather than the traditional proscenium theater, where the stage and audience are opposite one another separated by an arch, the Limelight has a three-quarter thrust layout.
“The playing area comes right out into the audience,” Cummings said. “Everybody has either a first- or a second-row seat. You get to see every tiny, little detail. For us, the artists making the work, the fun thing is pressing ourselves to be real, to be authentic, to be ready for that up-close audience interaction.”
Calvin Nuttall is a Morgan Hill resident and freelance reporter.