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  january 29
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RED Reviews

Man Destroyed by This Issue of RED

Baby, You Should Go See ‘Car’
by Jordan Scrivner
  Ron Frederickson’s production of “Car” shows a slightly less innocent version of the 1950s.

he Lab Theatre and Studio 115’s “The Car,” which held its free preview last night in the Lab Theatre, pulls a fast one on you from the get go. It begins as a nostalgia-fest set in simpler times, back in 1950s Suburbia Americana. Back when times were simpler—when men were men and women were in the kitchen.

And the play does a good job of making the audience feel welcome as we journey back to a time when everything was ultra-happy and secure (albeit in a vaguely disturbing way). The cast steps out of the curtain and shakes the hand of each member of the audience, except for the father, Ed Banner (Benjamin Green, arguably the best actor in the production), who semi-obsessively washes the “car,” a skeleton of plastic, wood and tape that sits center-stage. Even with some minor technical difficulties before the play actually opened, Green and the other actors were able to stay in character and keep the audience entertained with improv. “Kids,” Green mumbles under his breath when some of the backstage microphones don’t work.

Written by Carol Wright Krause and directed by U theater professor Ron Frederickson. “The Car” is about the Banners, a picture postcard of the American family, with an all-American son, Hal (Stein Erickson, who looks like somebody’s all-American son), a loving mother (Lab veteran Lizz Knaphus) and an honest car salesman of a father, who does everything by the book and has just recently purchased the play’s titular car—a 1954 Hudson Hornet, “a miracle of modern automotive engineering.”

But when Hal suddenly ups and joins the military, only to come back with a Japanese wife named Sumiko (Nao Dobashi), Ed’s world is suddenly turn upside-down. As a conservative American father whose brothers were killed in the Pacific theatre during World War II, you can take two guesses about how Ed feels about his son’s “Jap” wife. But as the times change, so does the Banner family, starting with Hal and Sumiko’s daughter, Beth (Chau Tran.)
However, it soon turns out that that old codger of a sitcom father isn’t all that wholesome and honest, that that Golden Boy son who was destined to be president isn’t as flawless as he appears. As the family breaks down and gets repaired between 1953 and 1976, so does the car, which sits perpetually in the garage, waiting for another Banner to look under the hood and check the oil. But through the bumps and potholes, Krause’s script can get surprisingly and satisfyingly dark, and the intensity of the actors on stage make “The Car” an entertaining and engaging ride. Green, for example, though he stands a full foot shorter than Erickson as his son, is still an intimating force on stage.

Instead of taking the scenic route, we go through the dank, dark ghettoes of life with the Banners. The scene in which Beth wrecks the car in 1976, however, could and should have been as dark as the end of the first act. Instead, Beth seems downright cheerful about wrecking the family heirloom. Other than this minor fender bender (last car metaphor, I promise,) “The Car” is a smooth ride with plenty entertaining detours and sights to see.

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