Driving Miss Daisy

Brenda Williams and James Hughes

The Pollard Theatre’s season opener Driving Miss Daisy is a lovely play about the unlikeliest of friendships. In 1948 Atlanta, Ms. Daisy Werthan crashes her car. Deeming her officially too old to drive, her son Boolie hires a driver for her, the out of work Hoke Colburn. As the Civil Rights movement unfolds around them, Daisy and Hoke form a friendship and a bond that surpasses societal norms and conventions. Penned by playwright Alfred Uhry and debuting in 1987, Driving Miss Daisy is still relevant today with its subtle commentary on race relations, persecution, class and opportunity, and most of all, the importance of friends and how they enrich and lengthen our lives. 

Pollard Theatre Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson directs this cast of fine actors to produce a quiet, warm, and touching play. Quiet in the literal sense- the actors perform without microphones. It’s a lovely distraction from over-mic’ed performances, which can often be loud and distracting, with unnecessary sound issues. Live theatre is a volatile medium to work in, and the relief from worrying about microphones malfunctioning is a welcome one. This is especially enjoyable with a cast of pros who know how to project, as this cast does. 

Company member James A. Hughes is Daisy’s son Boolie, and his gentle, and genteel, manner makes him a perfect southerner. Hughes is a gracious, beautifully talented performer. He could steal any scene he’s in, but is never presumptuous enough to do so. Hughes lets others shine, an unsung hero in this show as always. He is consistently wonderful. He’s a true asset to the company at the Pollard, and he’s a treasured gem in Oklahoma theatre. His Boolie ages with grace, becoming ever more charming and twinkling as the years pass. 

Brenda Williams returns to play Miss Daisy, a role she first played at The Pollard Theatre twenty-eight years ago. Albert Bostick also returns to play Hoke, and the two reunite in a collaboration that feels natural and effortless. The two actors create a charming dynamic on stage. Their characters need each other; for friendship, for an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on. They also rely on each other for companionship. This aspect of the play is both heartbreaking and enlightening. It sheds an important light on a harsh truth, that growing older can often be isolating and lonely. Human connection is key. Their friendship starts off rocky at best, but they come around in their own ways. 

Williams as Daisy shows the truth of aging, the hardest parts and the beautiful parts as well. Bostick shows the power of hard work and rising above. They’re both human, and they’ve both faced persecutions. As Daisy and Hoke grow old together, they learn that they’re much more alike than different. 

It’s nearly impossible to find something negative about any Pollard production. They’re committed to producing moving pieces of theatre, and they work hard to get it right every time. Jared Blount runs sound and utilizes the original orchestrations provided by local artist Louise Goldberg into an emotional and dramatic score. Dressers and deck crew members Hillary Winkleman, Stefani Fortney, and Dakota Muckelrath make appearances in the dark during set changes, and they’re swift and silent. Timothy Stewart serves as production stage manager. They all work diligently, along with the cast, to provide the audience an exceptional night of theatre.

Theatre Goer Pro Tip #1

However, the audience doesn’t seem to get it. During the reviewed performance, they miss several, if not all, cues to clap when the scene goes dark. The audience seems engaged, laughing at the funny moments, and several can be heard crying audibly at the end. But they hardly clap at all! 

The show is a one act, so there is no intermission to get up and stretch your legs, and possibly wake up! This audience is just asleep, or dead, and that’s a shame. The actors work hard and they deserve applause. Wake up people. It’s not enough to just purchase a ticket and sit in the seat when you support theatre arts. Theatre is an interactive art form, the only art form in which the patron can witness the art being created in front of their eyes. Doesn’t that deserve praise? When you’re an audience member, you’re an active participant. Theatre requires us to be present, awake, alert, and attentive. That is becoming rarer in our plugged in society, and it’s needed now more than ever. So when you go to enjoy this play, clap. Clap loud, clap often, laugh, cry, and please stand up at the end. The actors and crew from this engaging theatre deserve it, and it’s the least you can do.

Driving Miss Daisy runs until September 7th at the Pollard Theatre Company, 120 W. Harrison in downtown Guthrie. Tickets are available at thepollard.org or the box office, 405-282-2800.