The heart of “How I learned to Drive” is the complex bond between Li’l Bit and her Uncle Peck. We journey with Li’l Bit as she recalls the circumstances of a relationship with her middle aged, attentive, understanding, patient, ally, Uncle Peck.
Li’l Bit faced the inequities of puberty, large breasts, and growing up in an insensitive and dysfunctional household. She was eleven when Uncle Peck began teaching her how to drive, giving her life lessons beyond the operation of a vehicle.
We discover a 13 year old Li’l Bit who handles Uncle Peck by rewarding him for good behavior is out maneuvered by Machiavellian Uncle Peck at an uncomfortable and sensual photo shoot.
This contemporary drama stars five accomplished actors reprising original Broadway cast roles performed by renowned cast members; Mary-Louise Parker, and David Morse.
Christine Macedo brilliantly portrays Li’l Bit as an intelligent confused girl hungry for acceptance. Christine is authentic as she appears to us as an adult, teen, college student and eleven-year-old girl. Playful, coy or angry Christine sensitively brings Li’l bit to life for us. As a survivor she recalls the development of her relationship with Uncle Peck through a series of flashbacks.
John David Wallis’ Uncle Peck provides a masterfully controlled performance. John brings humanity and a naiveté to his character. His steady hand allows the audience insight into a gray area blurring the lines between emotion and morality.
Noteworthy are the performances of: Jocelyn Hall, Jennifer Losi and Michael Heiman. Jocelyn played multiple roles (listed as the Female Greek Chorus) and she flaunts her range of characters unabashedly. Spoiler alert, her betrayal of “The Mother's Guide to Social Drinking” is a show stopper. Jocelyn's portrayal of Aunt Mary championing her husband, Uncle Peck is tender and authentic. Jennifer Losi, playing multiple roles (listed as Teenage Greek Chorus) efficaciously pushed her performance skills from a cranky Granny to lending her voice to the sweet innocence of eleven-year-old Li’l Bit. Michael Heiman, playing multiple roles (listed as Male Greek Chorus) provides comic relief as a Quasimodo pubescent geek with a fascination for Li’l Bit’s breasts. His depiction of crude and offensive Big Papa is spot on.
Kudos to Joshua Hsu for his delicate treatment of a provocative and stirring story! Timing and staging were impeccably choreographed. Using minimal props, a riser and few chairs and a table, director Joshua manages to convey the flashbacks and forwards, subtly alerting the audience to what is going on during the driving lessons.
A member of the cast not credited was the music that contributed to the seamless transition from one scene, and time frame to another.
Definitely worth seeing, followed by a bottle of wine and conversation.