How I Learned to Drive takes LAU audiences for a ride
Lina Khoury’s daring new production of Paula Vogel’s award-winning play leaves audiences awash with emotion.
“Men are taught to drive with confidence, with aggression. The road belongs to them. They drive defensively, always looking out for the other guy. Women tend to be polite, to hesitate. And that can be fatal,” says Uncle Peck as he gives driving lessons to his niece, Li’l Bit.
It’s not only the road that Uncle Peck believes belongs to him, and Li’l Bit’s hesitation does turn out to be fatal, since her uncle is interested in more than just teaching her how to drive.
In How I Learned to Drive, the road becomes a symbol for one woman’s journey with sexual abuse. Li’l Bit deftly takes us down this painful path — with all its surprisingly comic stations and shocking revelations — unraveling her story, layer by layer, before feeling empowered enough to reach the climactic destination at its core.
LAU instructor Lina Khoury has never been one to shy away from controversial subjects, having made a name for herself with the daringly vocal feminist play Haké Nisswan. Paula Vogel’s play is no exception. “Molestation is another one of our taboo subjects. In my work, I like to stir people’s emotions and minds,” says Khoury. The performance pits the audience against a difficult — and for many, very personal —subject. “Some people come out of the play crying, some people love it,” she explains.
“I loved it, I’m so glad I came! It was funny and shocking too. The play has a great way of dealing with the subject, it’s beautifully done,” says Maya Yaziji, who came out of the theater full of emotions and thoughts. For Lebanese theatre director Jacques Maroun, “there’s no such thing as bad people, just people who do bad things and there’s a reason why they do them,” he says, adding, “It’s a wonderful play and very well directed. It’s important that we see more and more of these plays that deal with such social issues.”
The production is a lovingly difficult portrait of an American family in the 1960s, but is sure to resonate with every society that sweeps its darkest truths beneath the rug. It is also not without redemption and empowerment for the survivors of those brutal truths.
Although the road has separated Li’l Bit from her body — with the car as the crime scene — ironically, it is also through driving that she finds a way back into herself. “The nearest sensation I feel — of flight in the body — I guess I feel when I’m driving. On a day like today. The radio says it’s going to be clear and crisp. I’ve got five-hundred miles of road ahead of me,” she says in the final scene.
How I Learned to Drive is playing at LAU until December 13th, at the Gulbenkian Theater.