Dates 11 October – 10 November 2007, 8pm Venue Pacific Theatre, 12th Avenue
Reviewer John Jane
Notwithstanding that Driving Miss Daisy was first a Pulitzer Prize winning play, the film version is much better known due in large part to fine performances by Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd.
As the play begins, Boolie Werthen is trying to convince his mother, Daisy Werthen, a wealthy Jewish matriarch to desist from driving her car in favour of hiring a chauffeur. Despite just having had an accident, Miss Daisy is fiercely reluctant to give up her independence. Nonetheless, Boolie goes ahead and hires Hoke Coleburn, a proud black man with little formal education yet possessing a gentle wisdom. As expected, the early relationship between Miss Daisy and her new chauffeur is acrimonious. However, as the years pass, they each discover their common bond of never being truly accepted in 1940’s Georgia.
The play is characterized through a chain of short scenes that moves the story though twenty-five years. The passing of time is effected by the actor’s nuanced mannerisms of advancing age, with historical references thrown in to give the audience a sense of time and place.
Pulling all of these elements together is the job of director, Sarah Rodgers. Staging a play like Driving Miss Daisy presents its own set of problems for a small company production, not least of which, is that much of the action takes place inside a car.
Rodgers manages to overcome most of these challenges except the way the mime in and around the car is handled. The car comprises of a wooden stool for the driver, a French provincial style chair – the same as used for indoor scenes and a loose steering wheel. Doors opening and closing are enhanced, perhaps gratuitously, by off-stage sound effects. Tom Pickett as Hoke does his best with visually creating the operation of accelerator and brake pedals, but I was never entirely convinced that such a vital component couldn’t have been done better.
Erla Faye Forsyth completely inhibits the cantankerous Miss Daisy. She is much younger than her character, yet manages to portray the full range of aging, as well as balance Miss Daisy’s charm and rancour. Tom Pickett is virtually flawless as the trustworthy Hoke. He depicts genuine affection while maintaining the demeanor of a household servant. Paul Moniz de Sá gives excellent support as Boolie, Miss Daisy’s discerning son.
Alfred Uhry's chef d'oeuvre offers a poignant and heartwarming perspective of significant social issues in the author's native Georgia.
© 2007 John Jane