“Family is family.”
One of my favorite lines from Paula Vogel’s explosive and deeply personal play, “How I Learned to Drive”. Our guide, a strong and damaged woman, Lil’ Bit, takes us on a journey through her adolescence–her struggles, her triumphs, and her painful relationship with her equally damaged Uncle Peck. As we jump from year to year, we see a young woman with no father, a rough and tumble family, and an uncle who is looking for someone to keep at bay, as he puts it, “the fire in his heart”. Lil’ Bit searches for someone who understands her intelligence, passion, and humor, but Uncle Peck’s attentions confuse and combine all kinds of love, creating a web of ambiguity that she spends a lifetime unraveling.
On the surface, Ms. Vogel’s play sounds like an open and shut case of right and wrong, good and bad. What is so very brilliant about her deft and poetic language is that she moves beyond the black and white of a seemingly dangerous issue and explores the gray areas. Abuse, relationships, family–we all know in our own lives that they are complex and ever changing. It is satisfying to attend a play that allows the audience to be a part of the collaborative process. We do not participate, but we are allowed to ask questions and connect to the piece individually. A play not as much about judgment, but about the journey–and after all, isn’t that what we all are on in life?
During our first few weeks of rehearsal the actors have been deeply mining the text and bringing their own journeys to the work. Christie Parker and Joe Guzman (as Lil’ Bit and Peck) have created richly textured characters and their scenes onstage are electric. Our Chorus actors have found the humor in a wild and raucous family, but are bringing truth and dignity to them as well. What is so special about Theatre Horizon and Ms. MacMillan’s direction is the collaborative and open atmosphere that can’t help but be reflected onstage. In a play that seems to be focused on darkness, they are bringing the light.