Thursday, November 4, 2010

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel (1998)

Summary:  Over the course of thirty years, Lil Bit's relationship with her uncle-by-marriage Peck is explored.  He teaches her to drive, takes her out drinking for the first time and eventually visits her at college.  He begins touching her inappropriately before she can reach the pedals of his car (presumably age 11), and their last meeting (when she is in college) ends in a vague sexual experience and a proposal.  She states that she will not marry him, nor will she be home for Christmas.  She never sees him again. 
Thoughts:  Though the summary reflects a relatively straightforward plot, Vogel uses a number of techniques to ensure that style takes center stage in this play.  Lil' Bit is played by one actress, age flexible but likely in her 30s (Mary-Louise Parker in the original Broadway cast).  However, she morphs in age back to eleven and the action of the narrative is aided by individual characters named Male Greek Chorus, Female Greek Chorus, Teenager Greek Chorus, each played by an individual actor.
While the incest is unquestionable, the play raises questions about degrees of guilt and innocence (Vogel describes "Peck--attractive man in his 40s.  Despite a few problems, he should be played by an actor one might cast in the role of Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.")  Further complicating the play, Lil' Bit sometimes directly invites Peck's touch.
Like Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home, the style of the play enables her to write a fairly straightforward dysfunctional family drama in a very unique and dynamic way.

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