Due to its sensitive subject matter, Paula Vogel’s thought-provoking one-act, “How I Learned to Drive,” now playing at the Parkland College’s Second Stage Theatre, is not for the faint of heart.
Vogel received the Pulitzer Prize for this complex drama, which explores the origin and impact of sexual abuse within a dysfunctional family.
L’il Bit, who, like the rest of her family, was nicknamed according to her genitalia, recounts her memories of her Uncle Peck, a broken man whose love for his niece becomes a lifelong obsession.
Much like flash memories that are rooted in trauma, she presents these moments out of sequence directly to the audience, with the occasional help of a Greek chorus.
Director J’Lyn Hope displays a sensitive hand in her staging, turnign simple performance blocks into the dining room table, the laundry room and the production’s focal point, Uncle Peck’s car, where he first blurs the lines of affection with his niece. (Driving is used as a metaphor for control and manipulation.)
Haylie Denzer, as L’il Bit, gives a strong, layered performance in a very challenging role.
Thomas Fitch, as Uncle Peck, skillfully creates a complex, deeply flawed man that you should despise but often pity.
The supporting cast includes Delaney Wright as Aunt Mary (Uncle Peck’s wife); Emma Dorantes as Mother; Kylie Moubry as Grandma; Sean Kelly as Grandpa; and the chorus comprising Parker Evans, Marcus Aviles and Natalie Wise.
The production is enhanced by Madison Chaney’s lighting design and well-chosen music selections by sound designer Logan Dirr.