A word here about a couple of actors who never seem to have a bad day on stage. Laura Turnbull and Ken Clement. Put them together and don't take time to blink. You might miss something that would've stuck with you for a long, long time.
Actors' Playhouse has the great good fortune to have the two of them in Becky's New Car, as Becky and Joe, married couple. While Turnbull is undoubtedly the star of the show, and Clement, in essence, is supporting, it is he who we remember as bringing the solidity, the surprised hurt, the ability to carry on, but not all that pleasantly, that raises this comedy, almost a farce at times, to its level of theatre art rather than just sitting there as another slick sit com. Clement digs deep.
And fortunately for us, it's not all about Clement, for Turnbull, on stage in almost every scene, has the house wound tight in anticipation each time she speaks. And she doesn't miss a step. Her ease is remarkable as the loyal wife, the loyal mother, the loyal worker, the timid then unable to help herself explorer of what's around the next corner.
At first sight, Becky's New Car is not the most entrancing of titles. But after listening to Steven Dietz's crackling dialogue and inspired storytelling you know it could be called nothing better.
This is an audience interactive show. No, don't shudder or run screaming from the room. You can stay. It's quite safe. And for the first time in my memory, it's audience participation that actually works. Thank Turnbull, Clement and Dietz once again for this success.
Becky is the office manager in an auto dealership, husband Joe is a roofer (their own roof leaks), they have a 26 year old know it all, live at home son (Ryan Didato). They live a quietly loving suburban life. And then one night Becky's working late at the dealership, she's alone, and Walter Flood (Allan Baker), recently widowed multimillionaire drops in to buy nine top of the line autos. One thing leads to another, as they usually do, but not quite in the way you might expect.
Francisco Paduro plays sleazy Steve the salesman, also recently widowed when his wife fell off a mountain and Kim Ostrenko is a wiped out heiress rueing her lost chances. Kensington Flood, Walter's too sensible to marry a rich man daughter is played by Anne Chamberlain.
So we've got four men and three women, someone's got to get hurt, in a generally well acted very funny piece that pulls off the difficult: mixing the laughter and the tears. And that was in the audience.
David Arisco's direction, Dietz' s writing and the performances on stage in Becky's New Car had me hustling back from intermission, eager for more.
A realistic three piece set: auto dealership, rich man's mansion, Becky and Joe's home, by Gene Seyffer, costumes by Ellis Tillman, Patrick Tennent's lighting and Alexander Herrin's sound were all just right.
Becky's New Car plays through June 3 at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-9293 http://www.actorsplayhouse.org/