Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 23. Review by ANGELA SINGER.
SHE’S a wry old lady. You can get nothing past her. He is a smart old man who is always one step ahead. They are of similar ages but have different backgrounds – or do they?
We are in the Southern states of America. Miss Daisy is a fierce Jewish widow of 72. She has been left comfortably off but she knew poverty as a child and that hardens people. Hoke Coleburn is a black chauffeur. He has known poverty all his life. But he has held on to his dignity with a tenacity that demands respect, despite insults and hand-me-downs and a life of seeing prejudice from lynchings to patronising smiles.
She doesn’t want a driver at all, but having written off a car and several buildings she can no longer get insurance to drive. Her son, Boolie (played slickly by Ian Porter) hires Hoke who then has to persuade Miss Daisy to let him drive her – to the supermarket, to the Synagogue and then to visit family, out of their native Georgia, across territory where black men are not allowed to use the rest rooms at gas stations, past signs declaring that this is the land of the KKK.
Over 25 years, which saw the struggles of the civil rights movement in America in the 1950s and 1960s, a friendship emerges.
Gwen Taylor and Don Warrington are inspired casting. This production, directed by David Esbjornson, is full of wit and humour. The timing is perfect, the delivery and staging are immaculate. Warrington’s Hoke is so endearing you want to walk on to the stage and hug him. This is a part played right from within the soul, charming, wise and funny, not a parody, not a caricature, flesh and blood all the way through.
Gwen Taylor’s Daisy Werthan is similarly nuanced. Her panic at small things and her bravery at big ones is recognisable. She rages in vexation when when Hoke misses a turning but thinks nothing of going alone, as an old white lady to hear Martin Luther King speak, after her son has warned her what other white folks will think of that ... and indeed in October 1958 Atlanta’s oldest synagogue was bombed, one of several religious establishments to suffer reprisals for supporting the civil rights movement.
This is a beautiful play, beautifully performed. A whole world is created here so that it is a surprise at the end when only three actors take their bow. Touching, charming and a delightful evening.