‘How I Learned to Drive’ revival shifts into emotional ride 

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

Trigger Warning: The following play deals with motifs of misogyny, pedophilia and sexual abuse.

Playwright Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” is back on Broadway, featuring the two performers who starred in the original off-Broadway production after 25 years.

Originally meant to premiere in 2020 at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, the play was pushed back two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show finally started previews on March 29 and is scheduled to officially open on April 19.

Mary-Louise Parker reprises her role as Li’l Bit, an adult woman who tells her coming-of-age story through driving lessons. The story follows her life as a buxom adolescent in rural Maryland, back-and-forth between the 1960s and 1970s.

Coming from a broken home, Li’l Bit is teased by her family and classmates for her body parts, let alone the explanation for her nickname, but she finds respect from an unlikely person.

David Morse reprises his role as Uncle Peck, who is written in a compelling but uncomfortable way in that he is attracted to his niece. While it may be painful to watch Li’l Bit experience her uncle’s sexual advances, the audience finds moments of pause from Peck’s vile desires. Especially when he takes care of her and doesn’t take advantage of her when she is drunk.

Although this play takes on serious subjects, there is comedy. Even in the more intense moments, Vogel cleverly weaves in comedic lines to make it more bearable, resulting in laughter from the audience. The music selection for the car radio and sock hop also lighten the mood.

Johanna Day, who plays the female Greek chorus, delivers the most out of her comedic lines, from her monologue on alcoholic beverages to her role as a dorky teenage classmate. She also manages to perform the most out of her stern lines.

Chris Myers, who plays the male Greek chorus, turns the audience for a loop by switching from Li’l Bit’s misogynistic grandfather to a lovable bartender.

Alyssa May Gold, who plays the teenage Greek chorus, impresses viewers when she briefly performs the role of Li’l Bit’s grandmother, with a surprise twist at the end of the play.

Despite being around for 25 years, the play still leaves the audience surprised during the intense climax, with one audience member even saying, “Oh, hell no.” Additionally, the symbolic ending for Li’l Bit leaves the audience satisfied and aware of what the message of the play is.

One can easily find out what happens on the internet, but the experience of watching the heart tugging events unfold before one’s very eyes is something that cannot be given justice in plain words, so shift into the reverse gear at the Friedman for this engagement.

Theatergoers under 35 years old are encouraged to sign up for MTC’s “30 Under 35” program to purchase tickets for $30, in comparison to regular prices going as low as $69.