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Play that won Pulitzer hits Palomar stage

SAN MARCOS — Palomar Performing Arts presents seven performances of Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive,” a curiously humorous tale concerning the incestuous relationship between a young girl and her uncle. The play will run Oct. 3 and Oct. 12 at the Howard Brubeck Theatre on the Palomar College campus. Vogel’s play, which will be directed by Pat Larmer, earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1997.
With a cast of only five actors (three of them forming a contemporary Greek Chorus, playing multiple roles), Vogel’s play introduces the prepubescent L’il Bit (who serves as both the central character and adult narrator) and her misguided Uncle Peck (whose driving lessons manage to plough through several social stop signs). The play is set in rural Maryland during the 1960s.
“Vogel’s tricky, Pulitzer-winning 1997 play does something disarming: it presents a sympathetic portrait of a pedophile,” wrote Kris Vire in Time Out Chicago earlier this year. “The relationship between L’il Bit and her Uncle Peck upends all expectations; moving back and forth in L’il Bit’s memory, attacking sweetly and aggressively as memories do. Vogel doesn’t place full blame on any party, instead spreading it among Uncle Peck, the other members of L’il Bit’s family and L’il Bit herself.”
“Theater needs to be entertaining before anything else, and this play is very entertaining,” Larmer said.
He points out that Vogel’s use of humor to encase the play’s sensitive recollections is not just for laughs.
“L’il Bit’s rueful sense of humor makes the subject matter easier to deal with and the reality of the play ultimately more powerful,” Larmer said. “It serves as a shield for both her and the audience as she recounts the difficult and disturbing occurrences in her life.”
Tickets for “How I Learned to Drive” are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors/staff and $8 for students. Advance purchases can be made at, or by calling the box office at (760) 744-1150, ext. 2453.
The Howard Brubeck Theatre is located at 1140 W. Mission Road, on the Palomar College campus in San Marcos.