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EGO MANIAC
'BECCA'S' DELIRIUM FOSTERS CONNECTION WITH DARKER SIDE OF MIND

REVIEW ***

WHAT: "Becca and Heidi," comedy presented by Pandora's Box Theatre Company and Alleyway Theatre Company

WHEN: Through May 1

WHERE: Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley

TICKETS: $12 to $24

INFO: 852-2600

There's a little bit of Becca in all of us.

For one, she is a Western New York resident. She eats Tim Hortons doughnuts. She drives the Scajaquada every day. She's got a few extra pounds she'd like to lose -- the Hortons, probably. She looks for love, usually in all the wrong places.

But she also can't figure out how or why she was seen on the evening news saving a family from a burning car left on the side of the 33.

Playwright Sharon Eberhardt, a Lake View native whose comedies border on the dark and cerebral, gives Becca a run for her money in "Becca and Heidi," a one-woman show now on stage at Alleyway Theatre and produced by Pandora's Box.

That "and Heidi" part is the reason Becca doesn't remember the burning car, nor the television crew, nor the selfless act of heroic bravery she apparently committed. That's because Heidi is her alter ego. Only instead of the typical devil-on-the-shoulder, this id is actually a nicer version of her doughnut-loving self.

Heidi, not afraid to admit she's in need of a workout, can't explain the sweat stains in her armpits or the healthy foods in her grocery bags. And the incident on the 33? She'd never do that; she's not that type of woman. She's nice, all right. Sweet, really. But she's no Wonder Woman.

Betsy Bittar is a wonderful local actress. She fully embodies the Western New Yorker mentality in Becca, talking to us as though we know what she's going through, like we've been there ourselves.

She's so easygoing and free in her delivery, Bittar will remind you of that lady who will talk your ear off in the grocery line. You know, she'll tell you everything about her two sons, how one of them just got into UB but doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, while the other one just sits at home wishing he were in Florida. Then she'll go on about the price of bananas, and how you better switch your toilet paper to two-ply, because she read somewhere it was better for the skin. And what she saw on Oprah yesterday.

She'll just talk and talk and talk. And you can't escape, no matter how hard you try.

To be clear, Bittar is a far more intriguing character than that lady in the express lane. She just happens to share the same excitement for the mundane, the thrill of telling you all about her life, regardless of whether you want to hear it.

Eberhardt's got a full plate for Bittar. For close to 90 minutes, Bittar plays not only Becca and Heidi, but also every other character in her busied life: her caustic bookstore-owner sister, some romantic interests. One of them, a co-worker at her sister's store, delivers a killer pickup line: "Wanna go to the beach tonight? There's an asteroid shower. It's supposed to -- affect people."

Trying to decipher or divulge the hurried storyline would be without point here. Becca literally zips through her story with so much frantic zest, she's sometimes lost in the shuffle. But Eberhardt's unique twist on the "Jekyll and Hyde" template of good and evil is one we haven't heard before.

If our alter ego is inherently known as the evil one, does that mean we are the polar opposite? Why can't we be a bit of both, and who ever said we weren't the evil ones? (Or, in Becca's case, just not so rigorous with the no-doughnut diet.) By evening's end, it should come as no surprise that the good in Heidi jumps the cerebral hemisphere to Becca's everyday existence.

The Freudian contexts of the ego, the superego and the id are well and fine if you're writing a dissertation on multiple-personality disorder. What Eberhardt has done is effectively molded a woman whose mental state of disarray can be read as a metaphor for everyone's occasional bouts with delirium. We have been there; that's why Becca's temporary insanity is so funny, so real.

If we all learned to laugh at ourselves with as much hope and despair as Becca, then perhaps our inner-Heidi too would come out and play.

She might even tell us to put down that cruller. Wouldn't that be nice.