The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which turned out to be the breakthrough project for its author and which continues to be produced all over the world, concerns the coming of age in the Sixties of a young girl born into a family of "crackers" who offer little support for her native introspection and intelligence. How I Learned To Drive starts slowly, gains speed and power as it shifts through the gears of exposition and character development, then careens around a few sharp turns on two wheels and finally veers into a headon collision when a startling revelation in the last few minutes throws everything that has gone before into a harsh new perspective.
From the outset, period music and dance combine to establish a convincing mood and setting. Amber Mellot captivates the audience as "Li'l Bit", the young girl who grows up in the course of the play. Mark Salamon delivers a powerful presence as her uncle Peck, whose unique brand of love and support has a profound effect on the course her life takes. Naomi DeLucco displays exceptional talent and energy portraying Li'l Bit's mother and, separately, her aunt, as well as joining with Wendy Arimah and Jabez Zuniga to form the play's mini-Greek Chorus.
The author, Paula Vogel, is an archetypal artist, having demonstrated the integrity to put her head down and bull through wave after wave of criticism, rejection, and ostracism during the early years of her career. Unlike some talented writers who are handed a quick and easy success, Vogel toiled for many years before her work began to earn the well-deserved recognition it now enjoys. She also weathered some personal tragedies, including her parents' early divorce, and the separate and untimely deaths of her father and later her brother. In the process, she learned how to craft a character you can't ignore, and how to present controversial, in-your-face material without resorting to compromise or convention. How I Learned To Drive puts her talent squarely on view, generating both laughs and tears, fleshing out a nuanced character with an apt turn of phrase, deftly portraying a villain as a lovable character and a victim as a triumphant explorer, ultimately holding our interest for a full hour and forty-five minutes as Li'l Bit undergoes inevitable and devasting changes during her turbulent teenage years.
You won't quickly forget the characters or the events in How I Learned To Drive. And if you see it with friends, you'll have the basis for a fascinating discussion of relationships, gender, and power in contemporary America. While the play goes down smoothly at first, there's plenty of room for individual audience-members' interpretation and projection, without a bit of the audience escapism so common in today's most successful literature, film, and theatre. In short, How I Learned To Drive takes us on a remarkable trip, well worth the time and money.
How I Learned To Drive
by Paula Vogel
directed by Neil Donahue
At Century City Playhouse
10508 Pico Blvd.
June 18, 2005 to July 10, 2005
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00PM
Sunday at 2:00PM and 7:00PM
Box Office: 323.769.5794
Tickets: $20, Group Rates Available