Review: Hopewell’s ‘Car’ Confirms Farce | News, sports, jobs

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YOUNGSTOWN – There’s a lot going on under the hood Becky’s new car.

It’s manic farce on a grand scale, but Stephen Dietz’s play, which opened Friday for two weeks at the Hopewell Theatre, also has plenty of elements that make it seem like it’s trying to be something more.

Becky from the title, played by Fearless Rosalynn Bliston, spends as much time talking to the audience as she does the other characters. She makes the audience feel the stress and dissatisfaction of spending too many hours in an unwanted job as a car dealership office manager and so little help with everything that needs to be done around the house, where she lives with her roofer husband, Joe (Nick Mullczak), and her son. The adult, Chris (Dominic Spacek), is a graduate student studying psychology.

She even makes the audience complicit in her life, assigning various homework and office tasks to those in the first grade.

The son is quick to psychoanalyze the behavior of all but his own, but all the talk of self-actualization and the like seems designed to make the play seem more thoughtful than it is.

Most of the time it’s very funny, but the characters get hurt more and more as the story twists towards gains that the script never delivers. Which makes direct addressing the audience or having Becky talk to the lighting crew to relive the office half of the set because she forgot something there feels like nothing more than stage tricks.

The sole purpose of these gimmicks is for Blystone to use them to endear Becky to the audience, something that comes in handy when a character’s behavior becomes less endearing.

Becky gets a chance to escape that life when wealthy billboard advertising company owner Walter Flood (Brian Suchora) stumbles into the dealership looking for gifts for his employees. The still grieving widower thinks Becky’s wife is dead too, and let’s just say she’s not very resolute in correcting him. He invites her to dinner at his lavish island estate, and she doesn’t say no.

Becky’s double life soon becomes more stressful than her married life ever was.

Both supporting performances are good on their own. Timothy Stanley is hilarious as a car salesman who turns his grief over his wife’s death into a club he uses to whip up guilt around him.

Suchora brings a mixture of intense anxiety and energy to Walter. Spiesak as Becky’s son and Jennifer Milligan as Walter’s daughter play their characters on High Court.

However, the second act, taken together, is almost stressful with everyone working at the same level of obsession, especially when things start to spiral out of Becky’s control.

This exaggeration is the norm in farce, but it starts to feel like slightly different shades of the same color. Director Christopher Vidram might have been better off taking a different approach with some of the characters, but I think the problem is more with the play than the show.

The madness surrounding him makes Mollichak the quiet moral center of the story like Joe. Molishak gets as many laughs as anyone, but keeps the character grounded in a way that no one else on stage, save for Bliston, does most of the time. When he shows flashes of anger or pain, those moments hit harder as a result.

Dawn Rogers also takes a less understated approach in a smaller role as a once-wealthy woman who seeks a sugar daddy after losing her fortune.

Collection Design, also by Fidram, makes clever use of performance space. Vidram always makes interesting and insightful musical choices for his plays, and this one is no exception.

The lighting design, which must constantly shift the focal point between three distinct locations, will draw attention to itself even if Becky doesn’t speak to the booth.

if you go …

What: Becky’s new car

When: 2 p.m. today, April 30, and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Hopewell Theatre, 702 Mahoning Street, Youngstown

Amount: $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. Tickets are available online at hopewell and call 330-746-5455.

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