Review: 'Drive' upsetting - but it works

By TRICIA STILLER

There is no experience that quite compares with an evening of good live theater.

In fact, the value and impact of such an evening can last longer than some relationships in today's world. It lingers. It teaches. It inspires. It heals. And, in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, "If it upsets you, it's working."

In "How I Learned to Drive," now playing at the Station Theatre, Vogel tackles the sensitive and complex issues of incest and child abuse as seen through the eyes of a female survivor.

Employing an imaginative Greek chorus to assist in the structured flashbacks of her youth, Vogel's protagonist Li'l Bit (so dubbed because of her genitalia) recalls her strange upbringing in rural Maryland: her disturbing family, her feelings of isolation and her oddly devoted Uncle Peck, who, over the course of her journey to adulthood, serves as both the object of her childlike affection and of her woman's pity.

As the title suggests, Uncle Peck takes full advantage of his time alone with his niece, teaching her to drive and taking her on excursions that lead to dark secrets — the kind her mama warned her about.

Ironically, when all is said and done, Li'l Bit feels most in control of her adult life and of herself when she assumes her position behind the wheel, and she charts her own course on her personal highway.

Under the careful direction of Thom Schnarre, the subject matter is surprisingly human, evoking as much sympathy as it does disdain, going so far as to suggest understanding while at the same time never condoning the very real damages left by these tragic life experiences.

Scenic designer Moon Jung Kim provides the perfect playing space with three defined areas that hint at the simple, rural farmland Li'l Bit so fondly recalls — and subtly warns of the twists and turns that lie in wait on the road ahead.

The stellar cast includes Chris Taber as Li'l Bit and Thom Miller as Uncle Peck, with impressive supporting roles offered by Nic Morse, Sarah Heier and Malia Andrus.

If you go

 

What: Celebration Company presents the drama "How I Learned to Drive" by Paula Vogel, directed by Thom Schnarre and starring Chris Taber and Thom Miller

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and Oct. 17-20

Where: Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway Ave., U

Tickets: $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; $15 on Fridays and Saturdays ($1 discount, available upon request, for students with ID and seniors 62 and older)

Reservations: 384-4000; http://www.stationtheatre.com

 

Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at triciastiller@msn.com.

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