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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