By Beki Pineda
HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE. Written by Paula Vogel; directed by Liza Williams. Co-produced by square product theatre and Goddess Here Productions (Diary Center for the Arts at 2590 Walnut St., Boulder) and Buntport Theater at 717 Lipan St., Denver) through Nov. 14. Tickets available at 303-444-7328 or thediary.org through Nov. 7, and 720-946-1388 or buntport.com through Nov. 14.
This is a play about pedophilia. There’s no getting around the subject matter, no amount of language that can soften the impact, so we might as well just be up front about the whole thing. This is a play about an older man—an uncle—who grooms hie niece from birth to become his lover or wife. What makes it unique is the treatment. Paula Vogel has had at least second-hand experience with this subject, because she understands how a girl can get pulled into a relationship like this, feel bad about it and yet need it. She comprehends how powerless some of the men who have this flaw are in struggling against it. And she is able to convey in heartbreaking terms the toll it takes on everyone involved, directly or indirectly.
In a dialogue that weaves back and forth through time, we witness Lil’ Bit as she grows from a 7- or 8-year-old to an adult woman. Not much is given about her background except that she has a randy grandma and grandpa, a long-suffering aunt, and her Uncle Peck, the only one who pays any attention to her. Where are her parents? Unknown. But even when they are around, parents are often the last to know. So she needs the attention and affection Uncle Peck gives her, and slowly learns the price of that attention. Peck is relentless and smooth in the way he displays his own need and layers on the guilt. Yet you always have the sense that if he could change, he would. This single relationship taints their lives and controls who they both become.
In powerful performances, Emily K. Harrison and Mark Collins bring these characters to sympathetic life. The tension in their scenes together is palpable. And yet the affection also seems genuine. Haley Johnson plays Uncle Peck’s wife and has a heartbreaking monologue to the audience confessing her knowledge and trying to find someone to blame.
You have one more weekend to see the show in Boulder. Denver readers have one extra weekend (Nov. 12-14) to see it at the Buntport Theatre. This is a hard subject to write about, but between Vogel’s insightful script and square product’s graphic treatment, the audience comes away with new understanding. And new anger. I’m not going to write any more—just go see it.
WOW factor: 8.5