Sunday, March 28, 2010

How I Learned to Drive

None Too Fragile theatre company premieres with compelling production

For about four years, Bang and Clatter Theatre performed like the little engine that could. Run by the two Seans (McConaha and Derry), possessing little money, but lots of chutzpa, the company performed before nice-sized and appreciative audiences in Akron. True to its mission, the theatre presented innovative and challenging works. The atmosphere was relaxed, free wine flowed, and the performances were generally of high quality.

Several years ago they added a Cleveland theatre, opening a new space in the former Cole’s Shoe Store on public square in downtown Cleveland. That venue, due to poor parking availability, little publicity and the competition of the crowded Cleveland theatre market, never caught on. Then the economic crash finished off both theatres.

Now, growing out of the smoldering ashes, a new theatre company, None Too Fragile, has been formed by Sean Derry and former B&C actress, Alanna Romansky. Housed in the CityArt Indie Box Center on Front Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, the company’s first play is Paula Vogel’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize chilling drama, ‘HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE.’

The story follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li'l Bit and her aunt's husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her teenage years and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest, and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.

The None Too Fragile production is exceptionally well done. Alanna Romansky is mesmerizing in the role of Li’l Bit. She presents a multi-textured character that displays maturity, while being a teen and then an adult. It’s worth going just to see Romansky weave her magic.

Jeffrey Grover shows a nice balance between predator and caring uncle. Though his accent comes and goes, he makes Uncle Peck a real person, complete with complex feelings ,who clearly is a sick and conflicted being.

In an interesting directing twist, Derry does the show with only two actors on stage, while six people actually appear in the production. Clever use of video and projections makes this possible.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE’ is a complex play that is emotionally difficult to sit through, yet, it is so well directed and performed that it is fascinating theatre. Let’s hope that the audiences who found Bang and Clatter such a rewarding experience show up at the company’s new home, and the word spreads quickly so that Derry and Romansky can make this new venture thrive.