Keller directs “How I Learned to Drive”

By Carolyn Williams
Senior Writer

This weekend, Ali Keller ’12 is directing Paula Vogel’s groundbreaking play “How I Learned to Drive” in Tustin Studio Theatre. The play, which rocked the theatre world with its honesty, humor and shock value, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998, telling the story of a young girl’s sexual initiation by her uncle at the age of 11 via her remembrances of the driving lessons he gave her.

Our narrator, Li’l Bit (we only ever learn her family’s nickname for her), played by Emily Hooper ’14, is an intelligent but naïve girl whose family and friends acknowledge her only for her prematurely large breasts. Surrounded by a negative and ignorant family unit (her mother had Li’l Bit in her teens, her grandmother is a religious zealot and her grandfather an unapologetic sexist), she turns to her Uncle Peck (Banner White ’14), a traumatized veteran, recovering alcoholic and the only member of her family who is kind to her.

Peck supports Li’l Bit’s plan to go to college, despite the unenthusiastic response of the rest of the family. He hopes that when she comes legally of age, she will allow him to finally have sex with her after years of molestation, but Li’l Bit, finally able to speak up for herself, has other ideas.

Told in fluid bursts of anachronistic plot intermixed with chapter-like headings out of a driving manual, “How I Learned to Drive” tells a story which is all too real, a love story no one wants to hear. The romantic moments in the play are uncomfortable and taboo, but there is real emotion behind them. Li’l Bit is too desperate for affection of any kind to be able to let go of Peck without feeling the loss of his devotion as well. We have a sympathetic portrait of a molester, a confusion inversion of the stereotypical “bad guy,” and a victim who is unsure of the extent of her victimization, an even more confused–and distinctly less calculating–Lolita.

“All I can really ask of people is that they think the show is entertaining and they feel like they’ve had a conversation and a personal connection with the show by the time its over,” Keller said.

The supporting cast includes Eliza Macdonald ’14, Gwenn Gideon ’15 and C.J. Fujimura ’13. Performances are in Tustin Studio Theatre on April 28 at 2 p.m., April 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

 

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