A funny fork in the road
Everyone – well, any adult, anyways – has been there, to some extent.
Life progresses and changes. And questions arise about whether this is what life was meant to be. What have I done so far? What will be next? Is it enough? Am I happy?
Surrey Little Theatre’s (SLT) latest comedy, Becky’s New Car, tackles the highly relatable themes, taking the audience on one woman’s journey as she veers off the road she views as her mundane reality.
“It’s a good story about what a woman can go through when faced with her hum drum life,” says director Marko Hohlbein, fresh off last Langley Players’ production of That Darn Plot last fall.
When a grief-stricken millionaire wanders into the car dealership where Becky works, she’s lured by the glimmer the chance at a new life offers.
“It’s about all the stuff that goes on in our lives and what keeps up steady and going, you know, keeps the rudder in the water. And then all of a sudden, somebody presents us with an opportunity for a little excitement, a little something different and we take that little tiny step and the next thing, we’re drawn right into it.”
For Becky, the chance at a new life sends her, rather unintentionally, into a complicated – albeit humorous – double life.
“It’s a case of how far you go,” says Hohlbein. “In the case of Becky, she stuck her foot in the pool but didn’t quite go for the deep dive.
“We’ve all looked at our lives and looked at the pasture over there that looks a little greener… until we get over there and realize it’s full of holes.”
Playing the protagonist is South Surrey’s Robyn Bradley, who won a best actress award for SLT’s 2012 production of Mending Fences. She’s confident the plot will strike a chord with pretty much anyone.
“I think that maybe people don’t actually act in the way that she (Becky) acted, but I think people are often presented with those kinds of choices in life. Everyone can relate to what she’s going through at some point in their life.”
The comedy was what drew Bradley to the role, but the attraction to the lead part wasn’t immediate.
“I actually read the script and it starts with about a six-page monologue. I looked at the monologue – I didn’t read it – and I went ‘well, I’m out. I’m folding my cards right there’,” she giggles. “Then the actor in me started to see how it would start to formulate and how I would do it.”
Presenting a unique challenge for the actress is the interactive aspect of the play. The so-called fourth wall is broken down by Becky within the first two minutes, inviting the audience to partake in the action.
The prospect is both thrilling and terrifying for Bradley, who has no prior improvisational experience under her theatrical belt.
Her tactic: “Try to stay loose and relaxed and let go of fear. When you’re loose and relaxed, it creates freedom and space.
“In theory it’s great, eh?” she laughs. “I’m in the airplane right now about to skydive.”
Hohlbein says while the uncertainty can be daunting – you never know what an audience member might say or do – it’s a gift to be able to engage the viewer in such a distinct way.
“It’s one of those things where you let the audience into the magic,” he says. “You bring them there and allow the story to unfold.”
Also noteworthy is the challenge of staging a story that takes place in four separate locations. Hohlbein says the effect is achieved mostly through lighting, which helps demonstrate the feverish tempo inherent in juggling two existences.
“Poor Becky in the second act has to be in three different places at the same time,” says the director. “It shows the frenetic pace it takes to live that dual life.”
That leaves Bradley running, literally, from scene to scene, attempting to keep pace with her character’s various conversations.
“It’s what the playwright intended,” she says. “Her life’s unraveling and she’s not able to keep up with the facade. I’m enjoying the opportunity and hoping I make it work.”
Also featured in the play, which opens tonight, are Terry Thomas, who plays Becky’s husband Joe, as well as Philip Hale, Ken Boyd, Laura Luongo, Harry Pering and Cindy Peterson Good.
Becky’s New Car runs Thursdays to Sundays from Jan. 30 to Feb. 22, 8 p.m. at Surrey Little Theatre, 7027 184 St. Matinées are Feb. 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. For reservations, call 604-576-8451, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.