Commonweal presents 'How I Learned to Drive'

By Tom Weber

A challenging play for performers and audiences alike is the next production of the Commonweal Theatre Co. in Lanesboro.

The play, "How I Learned to Drive," concerns the abusive relationship between a teen-age girl and her uncle, who is teaching her to drive.

"I think it's one of the best contemporary plays we have," said guest director Lee Potts. Indeed, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle and Off-Broadway critics.


In the play, a 34-year-old woman looks back on her teen years, when she was known in her Southern family as Li'l Bit, and her relationship with her uncle. Despite the heavy subject matter, the play has been described as disarmingly funny.

"It's straightforward and very humorous," Potts said.

Potts, who recently retired after 31 years as a professor of theater at the University of Colorado, said one of the elements that attracted her to the play is the unusual way in which the story unfolds.

"It's highly cinematic, yet works as theater," she said. "It moves around in time. We're used to that in film, but not in theater."

The challenge for the cast, and audience, is that the time elements are not at all chronological. "It doesn't simply shift back to when Li'l Bit was 11 and move forward from there," Potts said. "It hops about."

Meanwhile, it would be a mistake to look at the title of "How I Learned to Drive" and think of the play as a sentimental memoir. "It's not sentimental at all," Potts said. "There's a very tough-minded kind of approach."

The play features Adrienne Krocheski as Li'l Bit, and Harold Cropp as her uncle.

The play marks Potts' first directorial assignment at the Commonweal. "I'm so enjoying working with this company," she said. "This is a special place."

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