“How I Learned to Drive” at Stone Soup

There are times when less is more. Stone Soup’s “How I Learned to Drive” is minimal in terms of stage props and set, yet it is overwhelming in its impact.

The main character Li’l Bit grows up within a dysfunctional, cracker family–a mother who lacks control, a sexist grandfather, an old-fashioned harpy grandmother, and an aunt who can’t face reality. The only person who takes an interest in her is her Uncle Peck. But like Humbert Humbert of “Lolita” fame, his interest is self serving. He craves her sexually, can’t wait until she’s past the jail-bait age.

The metaphor of learning to drive has to do with gaining control. It’s Uncle Peck who teaches Li’l Bit how to drive, and thus it’s Uncle Peck who gives her freedom, but at a heavy price. And that’s the conundrum that guides the play.

I saw a much more elaborate production of this play a few years ago in one of Seattle’s major houses and left unimpressed and unmoved. Stone Soup’s nuanced approach to the script works on a much deeper level. Director John Vreeke has successfully taken what some want to perceive as a rant against pedophilia and turned it into a psychological exploration of troubled souls. That’s what I think the author Paula Vogel has in mind.

Here we have a superb acting ensemble, each performance noteworthy. The set, minimal as it is, evokes both the roads that lead to freedom as well as the narrow, dark spaces that hobble a soul. Give this show four stars!

Playing through February 27 at Stone Soup Theatre, 4029 Stone Way N, Seattle (206 633-1883 or stonesouptheatre.org

Leave a Reply