How I Learned to Drive Delivers as Bruka’s Latest Production
Bruka Theater ignites the stage with their latest theatrical endeavor, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, How I Learned to Drive. Directed by the Sandy Neace, How I Learned to Drive, takes place in 1960s Maryland, where audiences follow Lil’ Bit and her Uncle Peck and the relationship that develops between the two of them. One day, while Uncle Peck is teaching Lil’ Bit how to drive, he takes advantage of her and molests her in the car. What spirals from there is a series of moments, conversations, and incidences that makes Lil’ Bit question everything about herself, her family, and her life. The inappropriate relationship causes immense strain on Lil’ Bit who is attempting to navigate and negotiate the sometimes conflicting messages she receives about sex and sexuality from those around her. Innocent and generally naïve, Lil’ Bit turns to those in her immediate surroundings to teach her “the facts of life. The three generations of women living under one house – Lil’ bit, her mother, and her grandmother – highlight differences in attitudes and beliefs with regards to intimacy, sexuality, and the role of women in society. The play showcases the maturation of Lil Bit into a young, empowered woman and the traumas that she, and other women in her life, overcome.
The first half of the play presents itself almost as a dark comedy. The main characters and Greek Chorus of hilariously dysfunctional family members elevates the mood and energy, though the play explores some very sensitive and taboo subjects. Lil’ Bit – played by the incomparable Jamie Plunkett – serves as our sassy female protagonist, providing a relatable persona for the audience. We can all identify with feelings of want, acceptance, and love and audiences could certainly empathize with Lil’ Bit. The Greek Chorus, including Stacy Johnson, Kathy Welch, and Scott Rankin, provide a continuous humorous backdrop to the play that kept audiences engaged and sustained throughout the show.
The tone shifted in the second act as the audience saw the emotional breakdowns of characters and the traumatic impact of Uncle Peck’s behavior. What I appreciated about the production was that Uncle Peck did not come off as a detestable, creepy, pervert that audiences could immediately write off and never examine. Instead Uncle Peck, played by the irresistibly charming and immensely talented Bradford Ka’ai’ai, came across as a tortured soul, battling his own demons of abuse, wartime memories, and alcoholism. This afforded audiences the opportunity to sympathize with the character and provided a rich, dynamic interaction between Plunkett and Ka’ai’ai. I experienced the full gambit of emotions with regards to this play; I laughed, I cried, I peed my pants a little bit, and then I laughed at that. I left the theater emotionally exhausted yet fulfilled and satisfied at the same time.
One of my favorite parts of the play was how Paula Vogel brilliantly uses how we learn to drive a car as an analogy for life. The instructions of how to drive a car serves a schema to direct the scenes and the progression of plot. In life, as well as with driving, sometimes one must shift, reverse, or simply plow right through in order to survive and reach their destination. One of my major issues with the production was the alinear time frame Vogel used to present her story. A friend provided me the most apt description for the production; the play is like a backwards spiral of her life all leading back to this one singular point. However, 3 vodka crans in, it became slightly difficult to keep it straight (a challenge for me always, but I digress). Ms. Vogel kept switching back and forth to different points on the spiral, which made me want to reach for a Dramamine. My only other issue with the play was that there was no intermission in this production, making me slightly nervous that my microscopic bladder might act up. Thankfully, though I consumed vast quantities of fruity cocktails prior to curtains, it did not act up.
How I Learned To Drive plays for 10 total performances: June 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 20*, 21, 22, 23 2012 @ 8 PM. Sunday Matinee JUNE 10 @ 2 PM followed by a talk back with the company. (June 20 is a Wednesday night show) The doors for all shows open a half an hour before curtain time.
Posted on June 13, 2012, in Plays/Theater, Politics, Sex and tagged Bruka Theatre, How I Learned to Drive, Incest, Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize, Reno, Reno Theater, Stage, Taboo. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.