By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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SEQUIM — It’s hard to say which story turns out happier.
True tale No. 1: For his wife’s birthday, Charlie decided to commission an original play. This gift was to be both a comedy and a drama about one woman’s midlife journey.
“We are not wealthy people,” Charlie has said. But instead of taking a cruise, going on a European vacation or buying a new car, he and his wife Benita spent a comparable sum on playwright Steven Dietz’s “Becky’s New Car.”
The play premiered at Seattle’s ACT Theater in 2008 and turned into a smash hit.
Then “Becky’s New Car” took off across the continent. In less than five years since its birth, the play has arrived on stages in Portland, Maine, San Diego, Vancouver, B.C., Key West, Fla., and 23 other cities.
This weekend, Becky is driving into Sequim’s Olympic Theatre Arts for a three-week run — parents in tow.
Charlie and Benita Staadecker of Seattle, the couple who commissioned “Becky’s New Car,” plan to attend the Sequim performances tonight and Saturday night. They also will stay to chat with patrons about their theatrical adventure, which as Charlie put it, has become “a whole heap of joy.”
Before we go to True Tale No. 2, let’s list the particulars.
“Becky’s New Car” starts up at 7:30 each Friday and Saturday night, today through Sept. 21 and at 2 p.m. each Sunday through Sept. 22. Tickets are $16 for general seating, $14 for active military and $10 for youth age 16 and younger; information awaits at www.OlympicTheatreArts.org and 360-683-7326. Tickets can also be purchased at the door of the OTA playhouse, 414 N. Sequim Ave.
Now for the other backstory. Our heroine Becky Foster is portrayed by Pamela Ziemann, a woman who lit out for a new life just this June. Ziemann, who brought her Elemental Cuisine nutrition business (www.ElementalCuisine.com) here, was driving a moving van from her old home in Bellevue to Sequim when she saw Olympic Theatre Arts’ playhouse.
She went in to meet manager Loren Johnson, who also happens to be the director of “Becky’s New Car.”
She hadn’t acted since high school back in Minnesota. But when she learned about this title role, Ziemann was smitten.
“I think Loren could feel my enthusiasm,” she recalled.
Johnson cast Ziemann as Becky — “bam,” he said — and the show was off and running.
“Pamela has really captured Becky,” said Peter Greene, the Sequim actor playing Becky’s friend and co-worker Steve.
“It’s a stellar cast,” he added.
To Greene, this play is a love story — a realistic one. It follows a woman who is tempted to flee from her own life: husband of 20-something years, son who’s grown up but come back home; office-manager job at a car dealership.
A man of extreme wealth appears at her workplace: Walter, played by Rick Waites. There’s a kind of spark between them, and Becky’s mind is set in motion.
“This play will touch a lot of hearts and consciences,” said Greene.
“Becky’s New Car” is leavened with moments of drama and of humor; often, he said, a split second passes between the two.
Ziemann added that for much of her life, Becky has just gone along with her family and work obligations. But there comes a point when she has to stand up and speak up.
“From my perspective, the play is about women who have never really been listened to,” said the actress, who is about 10 years older than her character.
“Becky has been interrupted so many times,” said Ziemann. “This is about how to be deliberate, to say what you want to say and know who you are.”
The “Becky’s New Car” cast features 16-year-old Danny Willis as Becky’s son Chris; Marti McAllister Wolf as Ginger and Alaynna Little as Kenni Flood. Carol Willis, Danny’s mother, is the set designer who creates Becky’s living room, the car lot where she works and the roads she drives, complete with “Dead End” and “Do Not Enter” signs.
Jeff Marks plays Becky’s husband Joe, a roofer who’s relatively content with his lot. In this story, Marks said, the new car represents a lot of things. Escape into a new life is the big one.
When Walter — a widower — walks into Becky’s office, she “starts to look around,” said Marks, “and wonder what else is out there.”
“Becky’s New Car” is loaded with food for thought, he added.
“You’ll wonder: What would I do in that situation?”