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How I Learned to Drive

March 22nd, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Went and saw Vogel’s play at None Too Fragile on Saturday night. The location is pretty nice on Front Street, right down in Cuyahoga Falls. The space itself is small and I got a seat right up front. Being a big fan of the intimacy that comes from The Liminis, I was ready for the small space and liked sitting right up in the front. The front row seats can’t be matched for getting excellent vibes from and views of the actors.

I have mixed feelings about the use of video for the “chorus” in the play and some of the other bit parts; but I was intrigued by it, too. As the play went on the video bits grew on me some, but the hiss of the audio sometimes took me out of the “world” of the play and made me realize I was watching something and not in it. I thought Alanna Romansky (Li’l Bit’s) interaction with the video was really good though and was impressed at how they worked through the timing of the thing. I also appreciated the inter-cut highway safety videos that Derry found to put in alongside Vogel’s captions.

I think what disappointed me about the video was the second to last scene–THE scene where the first sexual abuse incident transpires. Much of what I read about this play and the techniques that Vogel uses focus on what Li’l Bit reveals in this penultimate scene: “That day was the last day I lived in my body.” This last scene is designed to emphasize the point as there are three actors representing Li’l Bit: a girl on Peck’s lap, the 30 year-old Li’l Bit, and a disembodied voice speaking her lines. All this emphasizes the point that Sarah Stephenson makes in the article I wrote a while back, “evidence regarding how sexual abuse victims conceive of themselves, foremost being the sense of separation from their physical body.” In fact, throughout the play there is an intense and obsessive focus on the body and the rejection of it–including some scenes that were cut by Derry regarding Li’l Bit at a high school dance. Still, the initial molestation scene was powerful and had me shifting uncomfortably in my seat–so, minus the stage craft of actors and voices, the scene still has great power and an ability to cause discomfort.

The actors in the video were very good. Maryann Elder who played Li’l Bit’s mother was as close to a scene stealer as one can get, I imagine, with video; as was Jim Viront, who played Li’l Bit’s grandfather. And I have to say that one impression I got of the use of video was a distinct sense of memory that I don’t think I would have gotten from the physical presence of the actors. Mary Jane Nottage (grandmother) was very good, too.

Romansky did a very good job as Li’l Bit and I was impressed by her transitions between the various ages that the character goes through. I was equally impressed with the acting of Jeffrey Glover (Peck) who layered on the southern draw of rural Maryland like honey and played Peck with the necessary compassion, strength, and desperation (loss?) that the character deserves.

I am still very disappointed in Paula Vogel for the BB molestation scene which all but ruins the character of Peck and nearly makes him cardboard. If any scene should be cut, that is the one.

I’m not keen on the drive from Cleveland, but now that the kids are getting older I can make more of an effort to get off my ass and go see some plays; I like Derry and am glad to see that he and Romansky are creating theater. I hope Cuyahoga Falls appreciates their luck at having theater like this in their front yard. Derry takes chances and that is what is needed in the all-too-often aridity of play choices (such as adaptations of nineteenth century novelists) that are the fodder for stages. Theaters today are often too much hell bent on the bottom line, which can twist your soul as Mike Daisey points out.

As Derry showed with Bang and Clatter, he’s not afraid to go broke and he’s got the balls to shake it off, stand up, and come back for more. I don’t know if I could do the same and I have to tip my hat to him for that. And he’s still giving away beer and wine, which is a bonus.

None to Fragile is doing Mamet next, and I’ll be in the audience.

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