The Kentwood Players take “Becky’s New Car” out for a spin at the Westchester Playhouse
By Michael Aushenker
Songs about cars — how many can you think of?
The Beach Boys’ “Daddy Took the T Bird Away.” Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” The Gary Neumann song “Cars.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.” Van Halen’s “Panama.”
Auto-obsessed pop tunes spanning several decades pepper the Kentwood Players’ production of “Becky’s New Car,” which opened last Friday at the Westchester Playhouse.
As they are to the Southern California lifestyle, cars are crucial to the plot of Steve Dietch’s comedic play. In it, the titular Becky Foster (Cherry Norris), in her 50s, escapes from the monotony of marriage and middle-management after a bumbling millionaire steps into the car dealership where she works and drives her life in a new direction.
Produced by Larry Jones, “Becky’s New Car” will mark director Susan Stangl’s debut for the Westchester Playhouse, but she is not stranger to directing plays. For Theater Palisades, she helmed productions of “The Supporting Cast” and “Has Anybody Here Seen Roy?” She’s also directed for Celebration Theater and Morgan Wixson Theatre.
What’s unexpected about the longtime Santa Monica resident is that she holds a medical degree. Stangl used to run a family practice in Santa Monica, and she’s also worked at UCLA Medical School and on Skid Row.
“I have people who come to audition for me that I’ve delivered,” she said with a laugh.
The genesis of Dietch’s “Becky’s New Car,” appropriately enough, began when a wealthy person contacted Jones, the playwright behind “Sherlock Holmes’ Last Case.”
“A guy in Seattle commissioned him to write the play as a birthday present for his wife,” Stangl said. After Dietch wrote “Becky’s New Car,” the couple “would travel around the country to see various productions of the play.”
Stangl, a member of the Kentwood Players for 13 years, unveils her version of the play after first seeing it performed by Pacific Resident Theater in Venice.
“People really enjoyed it and related to the play [and its mid-life crisis theme],” said Stangl. “It certainly resonates.”
Norris, an acting teacher in Hollywood, anchors the ensemble cast with a role that keeps her on stage nearly the entire play. The cast also features Jaymie Bellous as Chris Foster, Bob Grochau as Joe Foster, Craig Bruenell as Steve Singletary, Dylan Brody as Walter Flood, Jacqueline Borowski as Kenni Flood and Maria Pavone as Ginger.
With its universal themes and animated car tunes, Stangl expects the play to appeal to a wide range of audience members.
“It’s contemporary, it’s smart, it’s funny, it’s well written,” Stangl said. “The more work we do on it, the more we find.”
“Becky’s New Car” continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 15 at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., Westchester. $18. Call (310) 645-5156 or visit kentwoodplayers.org.