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New Unity play handles great questions with comedic timing

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In 2010, Charlie Staadecker wanted a special birthday present for his wife, Benita. She was turning 60 and he wanted to surprise her.

The two were big supporters of the ACT Theatre in Seattle and Staadecker had an idea. He approached the theatre’s artistic director and said he wanted to commission an original play for his wife’s birthday. Would it be possible?

The artistic director loved the idea and hired Steven Dietz to write the play. Staadecker had just one rule: It couldn’t be “dark.” Other than that, Dietz had complete freedom.

Dietz crafted the comedy “Becky’s New Car” and the company of the ACT Theatre performed it for Benita on her birthday. She said it was the best gift she’d ever received.

The Unity Theatre will produce the work for the next couple weekends on its main stage. The penultimate play of the season will feature Lisa Thomas, who is also the theatre’s general manager, in the role of Becky Foster.

Becky is faced with one of life’s great questions: If you had the chance to start a brand new life right now, this second, would you take it?

“Whole thing is fascinating to me,” Thomas said. “We lead half of our lives looking forward to the next big event in our lives – high school, car, college, marriage, house – all these new things happening all the time. Then your kids are grown up and out of the house and suddenly, all these new, exciting, big things aren’t on the horizon anymore.”

That is the dilemma Becky faces in the play. She’s caught in the middle of everything in her life: middle age, middle management, middling marriage. She sees a life of monotony on the horizon.

But one night, a grief-stricken millionaire stumbles into the car dealership where she works and offers her the chance to change it all. The audience rides along with Becky as she tries to the answer the question.

And she’s not alone in her journey. Her coworker Steve is at a crossroads in his life, as well. The grieving millionaire similarly knows something is missing in his life.

The wealthy life-changer, Walter Flood, is played by a veteran of the Unity Theatre, Jim Salners.

“It’s a wonderful part to play,” Salners said. “He’s not stuffy, as most of us think millionaires would be. He’s a very down-to-Earth guy.”

Tom Prior, another regular at the Unity, plays Becky’s quirky colleague, Steve.

“He’s just a little bit over-the-top with his choices,” Prior said of his character.

Becky, Steve and Walter all engage in their own wrestling match with love and the result might change the course of their lives.

“We’re surprised by it,” Salners said. “Each of us is surprised by it. It’s not like we’re out searching for it.”

The surprises unfold for each character and none end up where they started. The story is a blend of comedy and drama that tackles the everyday problems and situations of real people.

“Everything about life changes at a certain point and taking a look at that and what that means is fascinating to me,” Thomas said.

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