The story of Driving Miss Daisy is well known. First, it was a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Alfred Uhry and was later turned into an Oscar-winning Best Picture in 1989.
The Montgomery Playhouse Production version of the play presented at The Arts Barn in Gaithersburg – has a sparse Set Design by Producer David Jones. A car, a desk, phone and a couple of chairs make up an office on one side of the stage. On the other side of the stage it’s scarcely furnished with a bookcase, phone and chair which represents a room in a a home. A few slides are shown in the middle of the stage to complete the sparse set. The success of the drama is put in the hands of the cast, and Director Loretto McNally receives exceptional and moving performances from her actors, and they deliver a wonderful show.
The play starts with Boolie, (David Jones) talking his mother into getting a driver. Boolie’s mother is Daisy, played by Jane Squier Bruns. Boolie hires Hoke, played by Arthur F. Greene, to be Daisy’s driver. The play covers 25 years from 1948-1973 and set mainly in Atlanta, Georgia. During that time Hoke, a Southern African American man, and Daisy – an older Southern Jewish woman – build a friendship despite their differences. The play touches on stereotypes, historical events, and the fight for civil rights in America- and reminds us of a dark time in our country’s history when Blacks had separate restrooms and Synagogues were bombed, and segregation reigned in the South.
Arthur F. Greene makes his Montgomery Playhouse debut in this production, and turns in a wonderful performance as Hoke. He had played the role twice before in other productions and his experience with the role shined throughout the show. His comic timing is impeccable especially when delivering many humorous lines. My favorite is when Boolie asks Hoke, “How does $60 a week sound?” Greene responds, “Not bad, but $75 sounds better.” Greene’s hilarious delivery made the audience roar.
David Jones is the perfect Boolie. His chemistry with his two co-stars is so natural and real that you believe he is Boolie. In the play’s opening scene – Boolie is trying to convince the stubborn and proud Daisy that she needs a driver. You would have thought that they were real mother and son. In the scene where he interviews Hoke – the dialog flows naturally between the two actors. Jones switches seamlessly from seriousness to humor as the conversation dictates.
Jane Squier Bruns has earned four WATCH nominations for her work at The Montgomery Playhouse. Her performance in Driving Miss Daisy demonstrates why. She brings experience, humor, and sadness to her role as Daisy. It’s a beautiful, multi-layered and emotional performance. The scene where she thinks Hoke is stealing from him is so beautifully acted, and shows how Daisy constantly assumes things are just not so. Ins. Jane’s performance delivers the Daisy’s assertiveness and the humorshe displays when having to swallow her pride. One of my favorite scenes is near the end when an aging Miss Daisy is dealing with her fading memory and believes she is a school teacher again. It’s such a moving scene and performance.
Together, Bruns and Greene’s driving scenes are funny and poignant, and you watch the respect and love for each other and friendship grow as the play progresses. My favorite scene is when Hoke and Miss Daisy are on their road trip to Alabama. Hoke stands up to Miss Daisy when he stops the car to relieve himself. The scene brings the audience back to the first time Hoke drives Daisy to the Piggly Wiggly, and how their relationship has changed. The relationship between these two fine actors is serious, humorous, real, and gently reminds the audience that everyone did not always have the same civil rights and respect in our country. Jane’s facial expressions show how dependent Miss Daisy had become to Hoke and how she was afraid to be alone. It’s great acting.
The three actors deliver splendid performances and together make this production memorable. Hop in the car and take a trip to Montgomery Playhouse’s Driving Miss Daisy.
Running Time: Approximately 1.5 hours with no intermission.
Driving Miss Daisy plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October 23, 2011 at the Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets call (301) 258-6394 or order them online.