Safety and Laughter at the Lofte

by Jillian Carter

Under stringent guidelines, the Lofte Community Theatre was able to open their doors last night for the first time since the pandemic began. In order to see Becky’s New Car, the audience has to endure social distancing, face covering, frequent sanitizing, one-way traffic, and other precautions, but all of them just add to the performance. For anyone not familiar with the show, the success of Becky’s New Car relies heavily on the audience’s willingness to embrace a nontraditional play and allow themselves to be a part of the show. Since everyone in the theatre is there for an escape from the present realities, it is even easier for the Born-in-a-Barn Players to get them onboard from the first hilarious lines.

Becky’s New Car is the story of an average wife and mom who finds herself caught up in a series of misunderstandings that have the potential to change her life. It is part farcical comedy, part suspenseful drama, and completely enjoyable. Cast to near perfection, the ensemble takes turns stealing scenes and stealing the audience’s hearts. 

Anne Pope as Becky has the kind of expressive face that can be read all the way in the back of the theatre, and is clearly at her best when the audience is laughing at her struggles. Even in the throes of agony, she finds the humor and vitality in every situation. The energy Pope brings to the stage is palpable. On the drive home, I couldn’t help but fantasize of doing scenes opposite her. An energetic scene partner is every actor’s dream!

The highlight of the show for me, though, is Doug Rothgeb as Becky’s husband. Joe is a complex man, who can easily fall into the trap of being more of a plot device than a fully realized character, but not under Rothgeb’s watch. He brings a casual, flippant style to his character that is difficult to pull off without throwing away lines, but he does it. During the first act, Joe doesn’t have a lot of emotional layers, but Rothgeb finds them in the second act, achieving levels that were excruciating to watch, in the best way. 

The other secondary lead, JJ Davis (Walter Flood), makes definite character choices for his eccentric millionaire that are alternatingly successful and less so. Walter makes everyone on the stage uncomfortable, because he lives in his own little world, and this works mostly to Davis’s credit. Unfortunately in the second act, it seems to backfire, bringing down the energy of the group. 

Luckily at that point, the entire ensemble is onstage for a good deal of time, giving Wade Mumford (Becky’s son, Chris), Mark Kocsis (Steve), Cece Hastreiter (Kenni), and Kirsten Wood (Ginger) the chance to insert a bit more life into a tense situation. Mumford’s presence could easily steal the show, but he chooses not to, to his credit and to the benefit of the play. Kocsis has a Rick Moranis-like delivery that cracks the audience up everytime he speaks, and is matched nicely by Wood, whose Ginger undergoes a fun transformation. Hastreiter (Kenni) rounds out the supporting cast, and does a magnificent job serving as the bridge between two worlds. Her character is the kind of woman no one wants to like, but I’ll be darned if the audience doesn’t embrace her anyway. She might be the only character with a lick of common sense by the end of the show.

Alongside these talented performers, directed by Kevin Colbert, the show is served well by a gorgeous multi-functional set and a stage manager (Brenna Thompson) who has to go above and beyond normal stage manager duties. (Don’t worry; it’s part of that nontraditional show structure!) 

Becky’s New Car is more than worth the drive out to Manley, especially since my GPS was trustworthy this time. To put it in Becky’s own words, “I felt something rise up in the younger part of my heart.” It could do the same for you.

If you go: Remaining performances of Becky’s New Car are September 5 and 10-12 at 7pm, with Sunday matinees at 2pm on September 6 and 13. All ticket reservations must be made by phone at (402) 234-2553, due to socially distanced seating arrangements. Performances are at the Lofte Community Theatre, located at 15841 Manley Road in Manley, NE.

Jillian Carter is a local playwright, actress, and director, as well as the managing editor of Appearing Locally.

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'Safety and Laughter at the Lofte' has 1 comment

  1. September 6, 2020 @ 6:34 pm Paul J. Davis

    Jillian Carter, we must have seen a different play on opening night. I am 65 years old and have been attending theatre productions for many, many years. The first thing I would say about Becky’s New Car is that when the intermission arrived I was shocked time had flown by so quickly. Many times when a production is not smartly produced a fan like me can’t wait for a break and a chance to check out the food at the concession stand. That was not the case on Friday as I was totally engrossed in the story line and performances of the actors. I was actually disappointed when the break arrived. It always helps when the sound system cooperates and it did for 99% of the time during this play.

    For starters, I found the social distancing game plan spot on and most appropriate considering the times we are living in. At no time did I feel inconvenienced or in any way my experience at the Lofte wrecked because of the pretty basic rules in place to protect me and everyone else in the audience on opening night. I welcomed the chance to be out in the world and thought the Lofte staff had everything covered. Your review suggest that we had to “endure social distancing.” I would push back that as a healthy, and wanting to stay that way, older guy I welcomed all of the little things in place to protect me.

    Secondly, I was confused and disappointed about your comments regarding the guy who played the wealthy old fellow who attempted an affair with Becky. I thought his performance in both acts one and two were consistently on the mark. I have been replaying in my mind the second act, trying to remember if I felt the “energy” from Walter Flood’s character pulled down the rest of the gang on stage. Quite simply I would say “baloney or nonsense.” JJ Davis was believable in portraying a grieving fellow sporting all of the money in the world. I liked his mannerisms, his attempts towards the end to inject fun into all of the confusion. When he spewed out the wine from the bottle as the dialogue about a possible marriage came up I was ON THE FLOOR. (I probably broke the 6 feet social distancing requirement.)

    Jillian, I know that you also “act” and feel that because of that, it gives you the credentials to spot a good performance from a bad one. I think that in this case you have overthought and over analyzed things. I urge everyone who reads this to buy a ticket for next weekends round of shows. You will love being at the Lofte with all that is going on around us and will thoroughly enjoy the play. And remember this review and see if I am not correct about a WELL DONE performance for all on stage! Acts 1 and 2.

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