Rather than cast about for another famous actress to take the role of Li'l Bit when Molly Ringwald leaves Off-Broadway's How I Learned To Drive March 1, the producers have looked inward. Understudy Deirdre Lovejoy, who has already played the lead a few times and appears in the ensemble, will take over the starring role opposite Cotter Smith. Lovejoy was most recently in The Water Children at Playwrights Horizons.
Smith, who took over the wheel from Bruce Davison Jan. 20, starred on Broadway in An American Daughter and Off-Broadway in Walking The Dead and El Salvador. Molly Ringwald took over for Ivanov's Jayne Atkinson, Oct. 7. The roles were originated in NY by David Morse and Mary Louise Parker.
Ringwald's last stage appearance was a reading of Salome opposite Al Pacino in 1991. (She wasn't in the subsequent Circle In The Square staging.) She won a Theatre World Award for her work in Horton Foote's Lily Dale at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in 1986. Her films include The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and The Pick-Up Artist.
Asked why she was following the siren call of NY theatre, Ringwald told the Times she was frustrated working on the short-lived TV show, "Townies": "With the series, there were script changes every week, and your character's traits seemed to change from week to week. I wanted to do something that would give me time to find the character and find new things in every performance."
Paula Vogel's comedy/drama, directed by Mark Brokaw at the Vineyard Theatre, is now at the Century Theatre, 111 East 15th St. For tickets ($25-$47.50) and information call (212) 239 6200. Drive, by the way, is having its West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep (a co-production with San Francisco's Magic Theatre), Jan. 9-Feb. 27.
-- By David Lefkowitz