Two Paula Vogel plays opened last weekend. How I Learned to Drive at Buck Creek Players and And Baby Makes Seven, a Four Actors Production, which is made up of familiar faces under a new name.
Kimberly Ruse, Jolene Mentink Moffatt and Lindsay Harbert in Buck Creek’s ‘How I Learned to Drive’
‘And Baby Makes Seven’
And Baby Makes Seven has Jennifer Bohler, Constance Macy and Bill Simmons on stage, with Rob Johansen directing. As you might expect from this group, the show is superb. The script is surreality in a whole new setting. Ruth and Anna (Bohler and Macy) are a lesbian couple who have decided to have a child with the help of their best gay friend, Peter (Simmons). The action begins six months into Anna’s pregnancy. Peter has moved in with Anna and Ruth and is having a hard time adapting to the other three children (Cecil, Henri and Orphan) … who are creations of Anna’s and Ruth’s imaginations, and manifest themselves in bizarre, split-personality bursts through Anna and Ruth. Though Anna and Ruth are fully aware that their “children” are fictional, the fine line between reality and fantasy is stomped on with glee by the two of them. However, it is decided that with the impending arrival of the real baby, the three imaginary kids will be killed off systematically — which proves harder than it sounds. Rarely does a show move me to laugh out loud, but this one did — several times. Scenes are quick and concise, but highly effective, in the beginning, and set up the situation in order to get to the heart of the issue. In the trim hour and 15 minutes, more happens with better effect and emotion than in most stage productions. In the hands of a lesser cast, it could have been over the top, or lost the element of reflection on the need for fantasy in people’s lives, but this cast is extremely capable, and a riot to watch. It’s almost a thinking person’s freak show: See Macy’s complete transformation into Cecil! Watch Bohler foam at the mouth in the throes of Orphan’s last grand mal! Highly recommended. • And Baby Makes Seven continues through Oct. 5 at Theatre on the Square, 627 Mass. Ave.; call 637-8085 for reservations.
‘How I Learned to Drive’
How I Learned to Drive at Buck Creek Players is not as lighthearted as And Baby Makes Seven, but none the less is still a remarkable piece of work. In it, Li’l Bit (as an adult) recounts her experiences with her Uncle Peck, who was a pedophile. Through memory and stop-action narrative, aided by “road rules” straight from a driver’s handbook and slides with road caution signs, Li’l Bit relates how she was treated from the ages of 11 through 18, and how it took her getting away from home to finally realize that she could, and should, put a final stop to it. Strikingly, Vogel makes Peck a likable character. You are witness to Peck’s manipulation of his niece, but at the same time you see the love that he also has for her, and in his simplistic way, how he sees their relationship as just fine. Though the subject matter seems heavy, the show never gets bogged down, and the storytelling element is enthralling. Watching chapters unfold in Li’l Bit’s life is like reading her diary. The play is full of tension and matter-of-fact observation. The cast plays the action straight, to great effect. Kimberly Ruse as Li’l Bit never comes off as a victim; she is strong and smart, but confused about her love for Uncle Peck. Peck, played by Luke Renn, is a comforting, solid man with a beautiful drawl. This, juxtaposed with his actions, makes the story that much more intriguing. They are supported by “chorus” characters, Jolene Mentink Moffatt, Brent E. Marty and Lindsay Harbert, who each get their moments to shine. The set by Aaron B. Bailey is very creative, with car seats set in the middle, road lines on the stage and the slides behind, to not overtake the focus. • Work well-done. How I Learned to Drive, directed by Parrish Williams, continues at Buck Creek, 11150 Southeastern Ave., through Oct. 5. Call 862-2270 for reservations.