Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize winning play How I Learned to Drive is a wild ride. Not quite a drama, not quite a comedy. I guess you’d call it a “dramatic comedy,” for lack of a better term. The show explores some pretty touchy issues, but not in an “After School Special” kind of way. There are no absolute villains, no purely good guys, there are just complicated people making their way through a complicated life. I promise you’ll laugh. I won’t promise that you won’t cry. This is the kind of show that you’ll think about — maybe for quite awhile — and want to talk about afterwards. I LOVE this kind of theatre. Of course, I love all theatre, but this is the kind of stuff that hooked me for good and all.
The bittersweet comedy tells the story of “Li’l Bit”, a Maryland girl coming of age in the late 1960’s. She is taught to drive and at the same time is seduced by her much older uncle. In the words of the author (taken from an interview on PBS in 1998) How I Learned to Drive is “a walk down memory lane… The play progresses in a series of flashbacks and flash forwards in the mind of the narrator, Li’l Bit. In many ways it’s a love story between Li’l Bit and her uncle, Uncle Peck, and it’s also, I think, a play about healing, forgiving and moving on.”
Vogel uses innovative staging techniques to tell the story, fading from one time frame to another and one place to the next. Just three actors, in addition to those playing Li’l Bit and Peck, represent all of the other characters, including their quirky, intimidating rural Maryland family. Music from the early-and late-1960s evokes the prevailing mood of that era. It’s romantic and a little sexist, emphasizing youth and fun; the sort of social message that would make a girl like Li’l Bit, who has many feelings of insecurity, turn to a flawed relationship where she can bask in the reverence of an older man.
This show may not be for everyone. In fact, if it were a movie, it would probably be rated R: recommended for mature adult audiences. Teens should attend at a parent’s discretion. Personally, I’d recommend it for any adult who likes character studies, creative staging, challenging themes and thoughtful discussions.
As Paula Vogel says in that same PBS interview:
“[Theater] should be a dialogue. To me, if there are 200 people in the theater, there will be 200 plays that the audience see, each one for themselves, that night.”
Yep. That’s it. That’s why I love theatre.
Director Ron Clark has assembled a wonderful cast for the show, including Don Stewart, Erin Parsons, Bobby Kendrick, Valerie Pallai and Stephanie Spencer. The photos above are taken from rehearsals last week. The cast has just one more week of rehearsals before opening next Friday, September 25th. If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you can do that HERE. And if you’d like to gain a few more insights into the play, check out this video featuring interviews with the cast of the 2012 production at the Second Stage Theatre in NYC.
That’s right. Time is running out to ensure the best seats at the best price for all five remaining Mainstage Season Shows in our 2015-2016 Season! Don’t be left out in the cold at one of our sold-out shows. Buy your 5-Show Season Tickets now and guarantee great seats all year long!
The Little Theatre is dark this weekend as we put the final touches on How I Learned to Drive. Have a wonderful weekend and we hope to see you next weekend for Opening Night!