Review: ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ at Anacostia Playhouse

Driving Miss Daisy, at Anacostia Playhouse, tackles many subjects: growing older, race relations, and all sorts of personal drama encountered by its Southern protagonists over a 25-year period, starting in 1948. Playwright Alfred Uhry, who won an Oscar for Adapted Screenplay of his play, wrote Driving Miss Daisy as part of his Atlanta Trilogy. Director Ella Davis brought energy and well-honed orchestration to this story that surveyed the personal and the political, the common man and historical giants.

Adele Robey (Daisy Werthan) and James Foster Jr. (Hoke Colburn) in Driving Miss Daisy, now playing at Anacostia Playhouse. Photo by Jabari Jefferson.
Adele Robey (Daisy Werthan) and James Foster Jr. (Hoke Colburn) in Driving Miss Daisy, now playing at Anacostia Playhouse. Photo by Jabari Jefferson.

Adele Robey was incredible as independent, stubborn, air-conditioner-hating Daisy Werthan. Robey was in-the-moment, scene-by-scene. She brought you into Daisy’s world. There were so many good micro-moments—telling eye-contact and all—between her and the equally amazing James Foster, Jr., who has co-starred with Robey in the past. Foster brought verisimilitude to Hoke Coleburn, a Black man whose world was the segregated South. One of the more engrossing moments was when Foster’s Coleburn explained to Daisy the nature of violent racists, after the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation: “We are all the same [to them].”

Robey is a co-founder of both the H Street Playhouse and the Anacostia Playhouse. She is also a founding member of Theater Alliance and most recently acted in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Foster has appeared in The Key Game and Much Ado About Nothing on stage and Netflix’s Daredevil and F/X’s The Americans.

Daisy’s son Boolie, an Atlanta businessman who had hired Hoke to drive her where she needed to go, was played by the gifted Matty Griffiths. His accent, horned-rimmed glasses, and skinny ’60s ties helped embody the character. Griffiths has been recently seen in Blues For A Royal Flush, Interrogation and My Princess Bride.

What a set! Emily Lotz’s engaging set design, nicely tucked into the black box space, featured four screens for projection, which were framed like pictures, a Southern-style living room, and vintage props such as an old pay phone, an old house phone, and a vintage copy of “The Saturday Evening Post.” Scenic Painter Kelley Rowan brought the brickwork on the stage right wall to life. However, I would have liked to have seen a more convincing car prop—it consisted of wooden chairs, a bench and a three-legged faux-hood with a steering wheel.

The marvelous sound and projections by Tewodross (Teo) Melchishua Williams featured everything from scenes and photos of the famous Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, to the Georgia countryside, to a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “How Long, Not Long” speech. Williams’ work included songs that punctuated various happenings and seasons in the story, such as “Christmas Time is Here” and “Santa Baby.”

James Foster Jr. (Hoke Coleburn) and Matty Griffiths (Boolie) in Driving Miss Daisy, now playing at the Anacostia Playhouse. Photo by Jabari Jefferson.
James Foster Jr. (Hoke Coleburn) and Matty Griffiths (Boolie) in Driving Miss Daisy, now playing at the Anacostia Playhouse. Photo by Jabari Jefferson.

Some of the best work that Costume Designer Nora Dahlberg did was on Foster, dressing him in everything from sharp, late-’40s-style suits to a suave-looking sweater and cap combination. Griffiths’s golf getup of short pants and funky shirt stood out—in a comical way.

Davis, an alumna of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, has directed a crowd-puller. Driving Miss Daisy features some of the best acting you’ll see this year.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Driving Miss Daisy plays through December 23, 2018, at Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, Washington, DC. Purchase tickets at the box office, or go online.