"How I Learned to Drive on Stage November 16-20"
SALISBURY, MD---How I Learned To Drive, one of the most acclaimed plays of the last two years, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, concludes the fall season at Salisbury State University's Bobbi Biron Theatre Program.
An unusual coming-of-age story, Drive explores the forbidden, sexually charged relationship between a young girl named Li'l Bit and her Uncle Peck. Written by playwright Paula Vogel who grew up in Maryland, the intimate interaction between the two characters is portrayed as a series of "driving lessons," long journeys along the back roads of rural Maryland during the 1960s, near the home of Li'l Bit's eccentric and tacitly enabling family.
"In the play's deftly explored metaphor," said critic Everett Evans, "the knowing Uncle Peck is teaching his niece about driving, about life and the world. At the same time this unhappy, effortly on-the-wagon alcoholic is using Li'l Bit for his sexual gratification ... although he apparently stops short of a full consummation.
"Viewed from the perspective of the adult Li'l Bit at 35, the memory play unfolds with a mixture of anger and gratitude, nostalgia and pain. Uncle Peck has given important gifts to Li'l Bit while at the same time taking her innocence, simplicity and faith."
Vogel points to an aspect of American life most prefer to ignore. "The culture trains us to be pedophiles. The eroticizing of children is all around us. It's on film, on television, it's in those Calvin Klein ads."
Yet loaded with humor, Drive is anything but a polemic. Critics have constantly pointed to the engaging character of Uncle Peck, "a courtly, perceptive fellow; a relative, in a way you wish had been around when you were growing up to run interference with the other adults," said critic Ben Brantley.
"Uncle Peck is such a potent brew of Southern gentility, soft patience and youthful nostalgia ... you give him the benefit of the doubt right up until the end," said critic Jayne M. Blanchard.
"It's a play about the gifts we receive from people who hurt us," said Vogel.
Drive was the most produced play in America in 1998 and has continued to attract multiple productions. It also won the New York Drama Critics, Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards, Susan Smith Blackburne Prize and other accolades.
Directing is Robert Smith of the Communication Arts Department. The cast includes Cara Dustmann as Li'l Bit, Justin Gallo as Peck, and P.J. Brennan, Pat Ambler-Perry and Nicole Montenat. Scenic and lighting design is by Dave Shuhy. Sound design is by Smith and Shuhy. Jenn Watkins is stage manager.
Performances are Thursday-Monday, November 16-20, in the Fulton Hall Theatre. Curtain is 8 p.m. except Sunday, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for senior citizens and non-SSU students. SSU ID holders are admitted free. Drive contains adult situations and is recommended for mature audiences. For Box Office information call 410-543-6228.
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