Driving Miss Daisy -- A Delicate Interpretation

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

Ivoryton Playhouse has a sensitive production of Alfred Uhry’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning Driving Miss Daisy. Under the careful hand of director Lawrence Thelen and the clever scenic design of William Russell Stark the three performers bring the characters to life.

You will totally understand the frustrations of  Boolie Werthan as he attempts to get his aging mother Daisy to make some changes in her life especially by taking on a chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn,  since she, although she won't acknowledge it, is unable to drive herself.

Besides Miss Daisy’s recalcitrance there are a few additional complications. The Werthan family are fairly well-to-do Jews living in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1960s and the chauffeur is a black man.  It is the working out of the relationship and a coming together of Hoke the chauffeur and Miss Daisy that brings out the humanity and tenderness of this play.

Director Thelen takes his performers through a variety of actions and assumptions that eventually bring everyone together.  But the chief force for the development is in the work of Rob Barnes as Hoke whose equanimity and perseverance overcome the hostility and reluctance of Miss Daisy. While it’s clear that Miss Daisy is not a racist she holds certain attitudes that reflect her upbringing in the South. Likewise because she was brought up in poverty she is reluctant to display her current economic well-being, especially with a chauffeur.

Rebecca Hoodwin captures the consternation and the surrender of Miss Daisy to the necessity for the changes in her life.  But that doesn't mean that she has given up her independence and her insistence on doing things the way she has always done them.  A good example is the first time Hoke drives her to the supermarket.  Obviously she has been driving there for years without accounting for the changes in location of streets. So she quickly recognizes that Hoke is not going the way she always did and remonstrates with him, but before she is able to enforce her will they have arrived.

Besides being a person of equanimity, Hoke also has the backing of Miss Daisy's son who is not only paying him but also has pointed out that he will make any decisions about any changes in Hoke’s status.

While Steve L. Barron’s physical changes as the son over the course of the play -- at least 20 years -- is not significant, the physical changes for Miss Daisy and Hoke are cleverly developed by the actors.

William Russell Stark’s scenic design allows for the play to take place in several locales seamlessly moving from automobile to Miss Daisy's living room or Boolie’s office. As a result the concentration of the audience is always on the actors and what they're doing and saying.

This is an extremely sensitive production of a tender work and the Ivoryton Playhouse staff needs to be roundly applauded for their efforts.

Driving Miss Daisy is at the Ivoryton Playhouse through Oct. 17. For tickets and information call the box office at 860-767-7318.

This review appeared in Shore Publications.

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