The touching and humorous production of Driving Miss Daisy, currently running at Other Voices Theatre, is well-worth the drive to the theater. A beautiful story of a prejudice turned into friendship is expertly brought to life onstage by an exceptional three-person cast.
Wonderfully directed by Susan Thornton, Driving Miss Daisy features the powerful story of wealthy widow, Daisy Werthan, and her business relationship and, eventually friendship, with her African American chauffeur, Hoke Colburn. Alfred Uhry’s lovely layered and well written script spans a thirty year time period in Atlanta, Georgia. After Daisy Werthan wrecks her car, her son, Boolie, decides to hire a chauffeur for his mother and Daisy’s prejudices are revealed after Boolie reveals her new chauffeur is an African American man. The story that follows is a slice of daily life in the American South from the 1940s to the 1970s as Daisy and Hoke learn to get along and eventually, form a friendship which transcends their time.
As the title character, Nancy Jones was excellent as a sharp-tongued and large-hearted matron. Her crass looks and comedic delivery were excellent and her one-liner replies often stopped the show.
One of her dramatic scenes towards the end of the show was extremely powerful and Jones did a phenomenal job using her body to physically show the effects of aging on Daisy as the show progressed.
Ray Hatch was incredibly loveable and charismatic as chauffeur Hoke. He provided a stunning performance and won the audience over before his first scene was finished. Hatch uses a wonderfully believable Southern accent, but could enunciate a bit more or slow down the pacing on a few of his lines, as some were lost to the audience. Jones and Hatch are amazing in their multiple scenes together. Some of the best scenes include their introductory meeting, when the tension between the two was delightfully obvious, and a touching scene where Daisy teaches Hoke to read, which was handled with great humor.
Eric Jones as businessman and Miss Daisy’s adult son, Boolie, was fantastic in his role. His comedic timing was sharp and his demeanor as a personable Atlanta factory owner was very warm and welcoming. Jones also had the most noticeable aging effects throughout the show, and for a 20-something year old actor, very impressively portrayed an older businessman, with the help of very convincing aging makeup and body padding. A very interesting aspect to the production was the fact that Nancy Jones and Eric Jones are mother and son in real life, and the natural family dynamic was effortless and apparent onstage.
The set, fantastically designed by Kyle and Tim Huth, is uniquely set in the limited space to allow for seamless transitions. The stage is divided into three separate areas, with the “car” and road on the left side of stage, Miss Daisy’s living room in center stage and Boolie’s office on the right side of the stage. Each area is beautifully dressed with period-appropriate props and split lighting. The lighting, designed by Steve Knapp, was another phenomenal technical element. Different lighting tones and colors suggested the passage of time as the story progressed, as did several well-known songs from the various time periods represented, including “Santa Baby” and “Mr. Sandman.”
Costumes, designed by Susan Thornton, Samn Huffer and Kirk Bowers, were lovely and subtle details within the changing styles, such as the men’s hats and Daisy’s purses, showed the passage of time throughout the show.
With the recent events involving racial tensions throughout the country today, the message of tolerance and friendship in Driving Miss Daisy is more relevant than ever and the cast does a wonderful job of bringing the historical humor and tension to life onstage.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Driving Miss Daisy plays through June 28, 2015 at Other Voices Theatre performing at the Performing Arts Factory – 244 South Jefferson Street. in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-3722.