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Carpenter Square Theatre's Becky’s New Car takes on midlife crises from a female perspective



Don’t just sit back and watch Becky stumble through her midlife crisis; have a heart and help her get dressed. Prepare to participate in Carpenter Square Theatre’s current production Becky’s New Car.

Director Rhonda Clark recently spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about dark comedy, the need for women-centric theater and breaking the fourth wall.

“In the first minute of a play,” Clark said, “if the character hands a roll of toilet paper to the audience, you know it’s ... unique.”

Launching Carpenter Square’s 33rd season, Becky examines generational and class struggles following the 2008 economic crisis.

Rather than doling out solutions, Clark said the narrative offers audiences different ways to view timely issues.

“The play could easily fall into the drama genre, considering the depressing subject matter,” Clark said. “What’s rare, though, is its ability to make people think while they laugh.”

Written by Steven Dietz in 2008, the story centers on a woman (Lilli Bassett as Becky) tangled in a chaotic web. She is stuck in an unsatisfying job and a marriage on the brink of disaster while dealing with the stress of an economic crisis, but Clark says this is not any typical midlife crisis.

“We’re used to seeing the midlife crisis through the male perspective. The man usually has an affair or he gets his muscle car; that’s usually the norm,” Clark said. “But this is a woman’s story, [and] all the other characters revolve around Becky.”

Rather than buying muscle cars, Becky sells them to pay for her son’s graduate school, which she continuously justifies to her husband, herself and the audience.

“In the first act, Becky hints she wants a change from her current situation,” Clark said. “We experience the perspective of several other women, all of whom are affected by financial and identity crises.”

Dietz’s play deals with dire situations with a level of consciousness that balances comedy and thoughtfulness.

Clark said the show represents Carpenter Square Theatre’s current contemporary repertoire.

“The play keeps audiences engaged with a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek style,” she said. “Scenes sometimes start before Becky can catch up to them, which accelerates the action and keeps the story light.”

Becky’s episodic style lends itself to current TV trends and audience expectations. Clark said this is a positive aspect for an intimate theater setting.

“With this play, I expect the audience to be propelled with the narrative; they won’t feel the need to check Twitter or Facebook,”  she said.

Although small, Carpenter Square draws strong local talent. Clark said audiences will delight in Bassett’s high-energy performance and how well the cast works together.

“Directors often get nervous when a group of actors gets along well, because this level of comfort sometimes results in weakened performances,” Clark said. “I can safely say that this is not the case in the slightest for this cast.”

Becky launches its season with a sense of humor and depth.

“You can start over, even at 50,” Clark said. “That message will resonate the most with audiences because it gives us all hope.”


Print headline: Thoughtful comedy, Becky’s New Car rides dark humor through a series of personal dilemmas.

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