Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Broadway Center Stage: Little Shop of Horrors
The pre-show music surrounds the audience with pop songs of the 1960s, which take on a decidedly creepy tone in this context: "You're Sixteen, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine," "This Girl Is a Woman Now," and other odes to the allure of teenage girls. This is the world in which Li'l Bit (Keegan) comes of age in suburban Maryland, defining her relationship with her affable Uncle Peck (Peter O'Connor). He teaches her to drive on the back roads and he's the only member of her family who supports her desire to go to college and build her own lifebut he also spends years grooming her for molestation.
Vogel has written the play as Li'l Bit's memories, bouncing back and forward in time. The audience sees her trying to deal with the lewdness and disdain of her grandfather (Craig Wallace), who sees her only as a voluptuous body; the helplessness of her mother (Emily Townley), who advises her on ways to stay ladylike while drinking the men under the table; the puritanical rants of her grandmother (Daven Ralston); and the way she feels like a stranger in her own body among her classmates. After spending time with them, she appreciates that Peck talks to her about serious issues and trusts that he won't do anything she doesn't want him to dobut the boundaries keep shifting.
O'Connor captures the charm that keeps Peck from being utterly repellant; his wife Mary (also Townley) talks about how he's the good neighbor everyone wants to have around. His ultimate collapse is genuinely sad.
Paige Hathaway's scenic design is plain and stark, almost temple-like, with steps that fill the entire width of the stage and a smaller platform center stage. Jarod Mazzocchi's projections draw out the subtext of Vogel's sometimes elliptical scenes: images of pinups, glamorous models and sleek cars, and the countryside.
Round House Theatre