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‘Becky’s New Car’ has trouble staying on the road

I think that, along with gunshots, strobe lighting and smoking, theaters should warn patrons about shows including audience participation. Nothing can ruin an evening faster than an actor leaving the stage to interact with the audience for no good reason.

The jarring interruptions are only part of the problems with Steven Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car,” which opened last week at Park Square Theatre. While the show has a nice vibe and great comedy, its pieces don’t hold together very well and the script is hampered by a lack of focus and will from Dietz.

Middle-aged Becky is making her way through life with her roofer husband, Joe, and eternal graduate student Chris. This gets turned on its head when flustered billboard baron Walter Flood walks into her office at an auto dealership late one night, and — through a bit of confusion — thinks Becky’s husband is dead and begins to woo her. Like any farce, the situation tumbles out of control from there, as Becky does little to dissuade the widower from his misunderstanding or affection.

A strong cast makes the funny bits work well (even the jarring audience participation bits), but the script is such a mishmash of different tones (comedy, drama, absurdist take on both?) that it’s never clear where this journey is going, while the cop-out ending — where everything is solved essentially with the wave of a hand — makes the evening unsatisfying.

“Becky’s New Car” runs through Oct. 4 at the Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul. Tickets are $15 to $40. For information, call 651-291-7005 or visit online.

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