It’s difficult for me to articulate some of my feelings about this play, because while I really enjoyed reading it, it’s also an incredibly frustrating and upsetting read. How I Learned to Drive stars Li’l Bit, a woman in her mid-thirties at present, who offers audiences glimpses into her past. This flashbacks reveal that Li’l Bit had a physical, sexual relationship with her Uncle Peck (yes, the character names are meant to be sexual). Obviously, pedophilia and incest aren’t exactly joyous topics to read about, but I really did enjoy this play.
One thing that I think works so well about it is that it opens with a scene in which Li’l Bit is in her late teens and sitting in the car with Uncle Peck, who gropes her. At this point, I imagined that maybe they just had an inappropriate, scandalous relationship. He is her uncle by marriage, after all, so it’s up to the audience to decide if this is really incest. However, as we go further into Li’l Bit’s past, we see that Peck had her pose for nude photos when she was only 13, and their actual relationship began when she was 11. Obviously, there’s nothing okay about this situation, and I think Vogel was smart to start with a scene featuring a more mature Li’l Bit so audiences could eventually see how wrong this relationship really is. To top it off, Li’l Bit’s family is pretty horrible; they all know something inappropriate is going on between Li’l Bit and Peck, but no one sees any need to stop it. How comforting.
Anyway, I found this to be an interesting and compelling read, though it certainly wouldn’t be for everyone. Our next play, which I read last year, is August: Osage County, so more incest and familial turmoil is on the horizon. Lovely.