Oct 30, 2006 — Driving Miss Daisy runs at Syracuse Stage through November 12. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.
For those of you who haven't seen Alfred Uhry's prize-winning play DRIVING MISS DAISY, it begins in 1940 and spans 25 years in the lives of Daisy Werthan, an ageing Jewish woman, her son Boolie, and Hoke, her African-American chauffeur. It's a play about ageing, tolerance, understanding, friendship and ultimately love. Daisy's relationship with Hoke begins when Boolie has to deal with the universal dilemma of what to do about an elderly relative who shouldn't drive. DRIVING MISS DAISY balances sadness with humor and Daisy's anger at ageing with Hoke's infinite patience and capacity to listen.
The costumes by Michael Krass couldn't be better. I especially liked the subtle and gradual graying of Hoke's and Boolie's hair. Jonathan Herter's sound is also very good, with just enough subtle touches of car sounds. Matthew Richards' lighting is effective, particularly in the final scene.
I was disappointed in Troy Hourie's set. The upstage area is overly fussy with first picture frames, behind them a railing with pillars, then trees, then a scrim and finally a very busy impressionistic drop featuring bright pink blobs no doubt meant to suggest flowering bushes. All this is framed by non-realistic Spanish moss. The furniture works well, though, especially when indicating the car. However all the layers of clutter upstage are very distracting and take the focus from the actors.
Speaking of the actors, all three are excellent. As Boolie, Daisy's son, Don Amendolia positively exudes warmth. He's thoroughly believable in the role of a loving son, who none the less experiences frustration when dealing with Daisy's stubborn desire to maintain her independence.
William Charles Mitchell is wonderful as Hoke. He lets us gradually see the complete man inside his initial reserve and patience. He's especially good in the reading scene and subtly underplays the story of the hanging, which makes it even more effective.
As Daisy Elizabeth Franz is just about perfect. Her small smile at the end of the reading scene is a wonderful touch, and her plea that, "I don't want to be a trouble to anybody" is painfully honest. She and Mr. Mitchell have created three-dimensional characters whose relationship grows and blossoms over the course of the play. Their final scene is almost unbearably moving and Miss Franz lights up the stage with her smile.
Director Robert Moss has done a fine job of staging and directing this delicate play. The action moves smoothly through the many scenes. He has given the play a flow so that it never seems episodic and allows us to accept its movement through time.
For anyone who has dealt with the ageing of a parent or grandparent, DRIVING MISS DAISY can be a difficult play to watch. However, its truthfulness can only help us to understand the process. This is a good production of a funny, moving and very human play.On a scale of one to five the Syracuse Stage production of DRIVING MISS DAISY gets four and three-fourths oranges. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.