Theater Review: Driver’s Seat

Ellie Brelis in Driver’s Seat. Photo by Jenny Graham.


A play can feel like it’s over in a flash or inspire surreptitious time checks. The solo show Driver’s Seat, now having its west coast premiere, is a little of both. Its 60-minute running time is short, and writer/star Ellie Brelis crams in a lot. It’s simultaneously too much and not enough, oversharing and holding back.

An hour is an uncommon length for a show. It can work, with a tightly focused script that tells a coherent story. And Driver’s Seat is mostly coherent, with moving moments. Only its loose ends are unsatisfying. Brelis is endearing, and we want to know how things turned out. She takes us most of the way there, then leaves us hanging.

Brelis relays the story of her OCD, institutionalization, grandfather’s death, failed long-term straight relationship and subsequent identification as queer, and her decision to learn to drive. Yes, it’s a lot, and challenging to wrap up neatly. So perhaps it’s not surprising that by the end we have some questions. She’s onstage, looking good and living what looks to be her best life. We have to assume things worked out, right?

Brelis’ illustration of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is compelling and terrifying, the heart of the show. She describes her childhood need to repeat a phrase an even number of times because she’s convinced that’s the only way to keep her family safe. She explains a voice in her mind that is not her own. She takes the audience on a journey that includes other manifestations of her disease, and requesting and receiving help when things get particularly scary. She makes it clear she appreciates her privilege, which allows her to jump the line to access treatment, and get the hospital’s $2,750 daily cost paid. But she never explains if her OCD is under control and, if so, what worked.


Ellie Brelis in Driver’s Seat. Photo by Jenny Graham.


The show returns again and again to a bad breakup that still seems to drive Brelis. Her anger about being left starts to feel unhealthy, and indeed her institutionalization follows. Driver’s Seat, well-directed by Emily Mikolitch, is instructive and entertaining, ultimately leaving you wanting more.


Driver’s Seat is playing at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex, 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Show times are 8:00pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3:00pm Sundays through Nov. 20. Tickets are $25 and area available here.


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About Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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