Arts & Culture

This year's model

Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse presents the Central Coast premiere of “Becky’s New Car,” a skillfully written comedy by Steven Dietz.

It’s not an unusual story, but it’s an entertaining one embellished by some twists, turns and improbable coincidences. The play, directed by Anita Schwaber, is well-cast, and the actors seemed to be having as much fun with the witty dialogue as the chuckling audience members.

Becky, married for 23 years to Joe, a roofer, is a title clerk for a car dealership. When a super rich but rather daft widower comes in and buys nine cars for his employees, Becky says something that makes him think she is a widow. Instead of correcting him, she accepts his invitation to a party at his island home — and the story begins.

Lori Cunningham plays Becky, and she connects with the audience members right away as she addresses them directly, whining a bit that her 20-something son has come back home and is studying psychology. She begins the show casually, gradually building interest in her character as her life becomes complicated. At first, she talks about her job and her ordinary life as she moves back and forth from her living room to her office.

The set is efficient to say the least, as the small stage is divided into home, office, the terrace of the millionaire, and the seats of a car (complete with trompe l’oeil paintings of the countryside on the windows). Art Van Rhyn is the designer and painter, and stage manager Colleen Spiller does lighting and sound.

Craig Brook is amusing as Walter, the wealthy businessman, endowing him with a guileless air of someone who has had his good life handed down to him and really doesn’t know how the middle class functions.

David Tune plays husband Joe as a laid-back guy, taking his job and his wife for granted, but in the end, he’s almost too nice.

Blake Spiller gets some laughs as Becky and Joe’s slacker son, spouting psychobabble to attempt to explain the family dynamics, which he probably understands better than his parents do. Christina Fountain is good as his girlfriend.

Josh Manzo is a secondary character as Steve, Becky’s continuously distraught co-worker, but he is the most intense and comic actor in the mix and is a welcome addition to the Plough’s talent pool.

Sharyn Young plays Ginger, Walter’s neighbor, an heiress who has lost her fortune. Young gives her a wry cynicism as she delivers some funny lines.

The dialogue is clever and keeps things moving along, although the playwright leaves some loose ends for the audience to tie up, or not, in their own heads after the show.

The play has an interesting history. It was originally commissioned by Charles Staadecker of Seattle as a birthday present for his wife. It was first presented by ACT Theatre in Seattle, and has gone on to be presented around the country to favorable reviews. It’s a fun, lightweight evening of entertainment. Piano man David Manion adds to the ambience with his mellow songs at intermission.

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