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Wednesday, March 7,2012

Something to talk about

In Riverwalk's 'Becky's New Car,' it's up to you to help out a chatty heroine who's juggling a husband and a new suitor

by James Sanford

If you attend “Becky’s New Car” at Riverwalk Theatre, you shouldn´t expect to spend the evening passively sitting around. There´s work to be done.

According to director Addiann Hinds, viewers have their say in determining how the comedy unfolds.

“The actress in the leading role of Becky starts talking to the audience the minute she walks onstage,” Hinds said, and before long, that “fourth wall” separating the cast and the crowd is all but demolished.

“Audience members get invited to come up onstage and help Becky dress, she asks them to do some tasks — which they may or may not do — and she even asks them to vote at one point on whether she should do something or not.”

After all, the middle-aged Becky Foster (Gini Larson) could use some assistance. Her job as the office manager at a Lexus/Saturn/Mitsubishi dealership is demanding, her marriage to roofer Joe (Wayne Tagg) is not exactly a thrill a minute, and she’s had more than enough of her psychology-crazy son, Chris (Joseph Mull), a graduate student who’s still living at home and doling out dubious diagnoses for his parents´ supposed conditions.

So who can blame Becky if she allows a lovesick millionaire (Jeff Boerger) to believe she’s a lonely widow? 

“It’s not so much a mid-life crisis (story) as it is a mid-life situation,” Hinds said, adding that Larson is well-suited to her character.

“She’s very comfortable talking to the audience. It’s fun. The key, of course, is to find the naturalness — it can’t look like it’s scripted.” 

But what happens if an audience member enjoys his or her time in the spotlight a little too much? “I don’t know. If they get up on the stage and try to interact, I don’t know what we’re gonna do about that,” Hinds said.

So “Becky’s New Car” might turn out to be the first Riverwalk show to have its own bouncer standing by? “Yeah, right!” Hinds said, with a laugh.

´Becky’s New Car´

Through March 25

Riverwalk Theatre

228 Museum Drive, Lansing

7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

$14; $12 for seniors and students

(517) 482-5700

www.riverwalktheatre.com

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