Rosebud Theatre: Driving Miss Daisy
by Laureen F. Guenther
Driving Miss Daisy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, opened at Rosebud Theatre, April 6. It will run until May 19.
Miss Daisy (played by Judith Buchan) is an ageing Jewish widow who doesn’t want to admit she’s not a safe driver anymore. Against her protests, her son Boolie (Paul F. Muir) hires a driver, Hoke (Tom Pickett).
Hoke is black. Miss Daisy is white. And this is 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course, it doesn’t bother Miss Daisy that Hoke is black. She has certain expectations of his kind of people, but she declares she has never been prejudiced.
Miss Daisy has a lot to learn, and she learns it slowly. Thankfully, Hoke is patient. And 25 years later, when Miss Daisy is frail enough to need much more than a driver, Hoke is still there. These three actors give such skilled performances, and playwright Alfred Uhry has written these characters so convincingly, I still sometimes have to remind myself that Miss Daisy, Boolie and Hoke aren’t real people.
But then I tell myself maybe they are. They have different names, of course, but these characters are just like people I know. Maybe they’re even like me.
Miss Daisy is an educated, wealthy woman of privilege, who chooses to see herself as she thinks she ought to be, rather than as the person everyone else knows she is.
Hoke has almost no formal education but is understanding and patient with Miss Daisy’s narrow-mindedness. Yet he’s as blind to his own racism as Miss Daisy is to hers.
Boolie is a successful, middle-aged businessman whose mother still sees him as a child. He always gives her his best, but it’s never good enough.
It’s easy for me to be thankful I’m not like Miss Daisy. I’m not old, for starters, and I’m not that grouchy. At least, I don’t think I am. Not yet.
So I resolve that, when I’m elderly, I’ll be more self-aware than Miss Daisy is. I’ll be less grouchy and more grateful.
But what if, despite my best intentions, I do become grouchy and ungrateful? Will there be a Hoke and Boolie around to show me kindness when I most need it and least deserve it?
And when I encounter a Miss Daisy, will I be as patient and kind as Hoke and Boolie?
For all my lingering questions, I enjoyed Driving Miss Daisy for making me laugh and cry, and for briefly taking me away to another world, another time.
The costumes, designed by Norma Roth, enhance that feeling of being somewhere else for awhile. Boolie’s costumes especially — the wide shoulder pads of his late 1940s suit, the argyle golfing socks, the bell-bottoms in the 1960s — provoke a lot of laughter during the show, and a lot of conversation afterward.
The sound design, by designer Matthew B. Golden, is another highlight of this production. More than once, I heard the birds chirping over my head, and I kept looking for a barking dog that wasn’t there. And on each drive Miss Daisy takes with Hoke, I heard and felt the slam of the car door, the bump at the end of the driveway and the hum of the engine.
After the show, I spoke with Golden, who said the show has more than 100 sound cues, all designed to serve and enhance the story. And that’s exactly what they do.
Driving Miss Daisy runs until May 19, in Rosebud’s Opera House. Tickets include a buffet designed by Rosebud’s new chef, Ken Onizaki. A limited number of theatre-only tickets are available. For info and tickets, go to rosebudtheatre.com or 1-800-267-7553.