Stages Repertory Theatre presents the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Driving Miss Daisy”. This dramatic often times humorous play still rings true today exploring the nature of race relations and simple human interactions.
“Driving Miss Daisy” was first produced Off-Broadway in 1987. Alfred Uhry wrote the play and subsequently the screenplay for the 1989 film adaptation starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. Uhry wrote this play as the first of his “Atlanta Trilogy” which deals with white Jewish residents in the city during the 20th century. Uhry has created a poignant production that continues to be told year after year reaching new audiences with a still relevant issue.
The Artistic Director, Kenn McLaughlin, directs the Stages’ production. In the program, McLaughlin speaks about the impact the play had no only on him but also how he feels it impacts the country still today saying, “I might argue that, in fact, “Driving Miss Daisy” isn’t a bauble to be dismissed, but is, rather, a profound voicing of the most confounding issues that undergird our American racial discord; the plain fact that racism is systemic, cultural, deeply ingrained and deeply buried in all of us.” Today, this play continues to be produced and performed for the simple fact that many refuse to see the deep impact such a play still holds on our society and that change no matter how small or difficult is always a step forward. This play examines the intricate human interaction as it mixes with that of race relations, revealing that we are only human and how we treat each should be based on who we are and not the color skin we have.
Sally Edmundson brings to life Daisy Werthan a seventy two year old Southern Jewish woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. Daisy is a firecracker in spite of her old age and refuses to be slowed down. After one too many auto accidents, her concerned son Boolie Werthan, played by Josh Morrison, decides the only solution is a chauffeur. Hoke Coleburn, played by Byron Jacquet, walks through Werthan’s door with just the right background, charm and know-how to get the job. Hoke, despite having pleasant experiences with working for other Jewish employers, has no idea what working for Miss Daisy has in store for him.
Edmundson has starred in multiple Stages’ hits including “Full Gallop”, “Veronica’s Room” and “Steel Magnolias”. She delivers another top quality performance as Daisy. Her transformation on stage as Daisy goes from headstrong and fiery to understanding and reserved as she ages, is a performance not to be missed. Edmundson puts her heart on display as her character Daisy struggles with coming to grips with the reality of needing a little extra help and finding a way to tolerate her new chauffeur.
Morrison as son Boolie balances out the cast. He is a caring, sometimes overbearing son that offers a bridge with the characters. He brings the pair together and often times finds himself a bit of a mediator or behind the scenes man. Morrison has a complimentary presence on stage which perfectly blends the two leads.
Jacquet plays the lovable Hoke with quiet charm. Hoke charms and uses his wit to get the job with Miss Daisy and Jacquet does the same to win the hearts of audiences. Hoke has a no nonsense demeanor that is honest and loyal and mix that with Daisy and her witty banter, the pair offer moments of laugh out loud humor. Edmundson and Jacquet create magic on stage as their character’s transition from hostile towards one another to being dear friends.
Being written to highlight the time during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this play tackles the struggle between racism in society. Daisy and Hoke as they come together as employee and employer as well as white woman and black man their interactions begin to reveal things about our current society as well. This play should continue to be performed by such talented casts to remind audiences that with understanding, care and a lot of work a peace can be reached. There can be hope for a better day.
“Driving Miss Daisy” runs now through Sept. 13 on the Yeager Theatre at Stages. To find out about purchasing tickets, visit www.stagestheatre.com. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Stages box office at 713-527-0123 during the hours of Monday-Saturday: 12:00 pm-6:30 pm or Sunday: 12:00 pm- 4:00 pm or pick them up by visiting the box office at 3201 Allen Parkway. While visiting their site, be sure to see what exciting shows remain for the 2015-2016 season.