There seems to be an ill-conceived assumption in fiction of any kind that the experiences of men are universal, but those of women are not. How refreshing then that Steven Dietz's "Becky's New Car," at Barksdale's Hanover Tavern, focuses on a woman — and a middle-aged one at that.
Aside from being overworked at her job at a car dealership, Becky Foster is reasonably content with life. Everything is going along fine until a wealthy businessman takes a fancy to her, and she must decide between her family and a new life of opulence. Melissa Johnston Price channels a neurotic Diane Keaton as Becky, just as charming as she is flustered.
The moment Price hits the stage she's relatable to the audience. Joining her in this love triangle are veteran actors David Bridgewater and Gordon Bass. Bridgewater gives a believable performance as Joe, the husband in a normal, comfortable marriage. Bass brings a quiet dignity to prosperous widower Walter, provoking sympathy from the audience. Becky and Joe's son, Chris, played by Evan Nasteff, is simultaneously quirky, intelligent and as smartass as any good college student.
Rounding out the cast are Christine Fonsale, Daniel Moore and Maggie Roop. Each actor creates fully-developed characters with their own aspirations and trajectories. Dietz's script stays away from boring conventions, crafting an original play instead with audience-interaction bits, abrupt shifts in location and natural dialogue.
Billy Christopher Maupin's adept direction balances the show's humor and drama perfectly. With interesting characters, flawless timing and great performances, Maupin and company do excellent work here.
Not only is Barksdale's show solid, but what the play represents is something new and more challenging than most theater offerings. In one of the early scenes in the play, Price changes clothing in front of the audience, right down to her slip. While it's common in theater and film to see men of any age and build in their underwear, how often do you see a middle-aged woman with a normal body type strip down like in real life? How refreshing indeed. S
Barksdale Theater's "Becky's New Car" plays through Nov. 6 at Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Road. Tickets are $19-$38. For information go to barksdalerichmond.org or call 282-2620.