The Brown County Playhouse wraps up its sixty-first season of summer theatre with a warmly funny and touching production of Alfred Uhrey’s award winning Driving Miss Daisy.
Martha Jacobs Plays Miss Daisy from her seventies in 1948 into her nineties in the mid sixties. As the play opens she’s just wreaked the car and been forbidden to drive. Her son Boolie, Mathew Buffalo, has hired Hoke Coleburn, Ansley Valentine, to be her chauffeur. Miss Daisy is deeply resentful and it’s more than a week before she grudgingly accepts Hoke. At the play’s end, Daisy, now in a nursing home is being fed small forkfuls of pie by the same Hoke that she has actually called her, “best friend.”
Jacobs has a delightful way of making this stiff Atlanta Jewish matriarch into both a sympathetic and also humorous figure. As her son Boolie says about her “Mamma is a doodle.” Ansley Valentine is superb as the long suffering chauffeur. His Hoke ages right along with Miss Daisy as the two grow to trust and even to understand one another. It’s a tribute to playwright Uhrey’s grasp of the people and the period that from Daisy there is more trust and from Hoke more understanding.
Mathew Buffalo was an engaging figure as Miss Daisy’s long suffering son, Boolie. I did wish for a bit more heft in a figure of his community prominence and he did throw away the delightful moment about football in his speech as a recipient of the Atlanta Businessman of the Year Award. But his love and thoughtful concern for his mother was always nicely balanced even when tinged with irritation.
Linda Pisano’s costumes look good on everyone and do a nice job of evoking that period when both men and women wore hats. The simple set by I Christopher Berg is a model of efficiency. Miss Daisy’s living area is deep on the left and Boolie’s office deep on the right. In the middle are a couple of benches for the show’s car trips and on the front edge left and right a couple of simple grave markers for the cemetery scene. Here are a few quibbles. Miss Daisy’s area just doesn’t look quite up to the quality that she would have had. Daisy and Boolie’s backdrop windows are so high that it appears they are in a basement. And, there’s a lighted mirror on Miss Daisy’s dresser that especially in the dimmer scenes got to be a pain in the eyes.
Dale McFadden is the director of this very accomplished production. The story is a complex one and McFadden and his cast don’t gloss over the tensions of the times. As I was watching the scenes of Driving Miss Daisy,” I keep thinking that it was like a chamber music. The individual players have their solos their accompaniments and even their harmonies worked out so well. Scenes flow from one to another. Moods change, there’s always variety from tension to relief, from moments of out loud laughter to even a couple of real tears.
The Brown County Playhouse’s production of Driving Miss Daisy continues with Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances through October 24th.