There's a reason that Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize winning heartbreaker "Driving Miss Daisy" isn't produced much around here: casting. It's not always so easy, especially for a small theater company, to find three strong, age and race appropriate actors to take on this beautiful piece and do it justice. And there is where ReAct Theatre director David Hsieh lucked out with their current production as their three amazing performers handled the subject matter and the sizable passage of time in the show with grace and heart and also managed some stunning chemistry among each other.
Spanning across two decades, Uhry's gorgeous play focuses on the unlikely yet enduring friendship of two extremely strong willed people, the elderly Miss Daisy (Walayn Sharples) and her black chauffeur Hoke (Ekello Harrid, Jr.). An enduring tale of a beautiful and complex relationship, Uhry takes a look at a time when racial attitudes were changing yet still very volatile and shines a spotlight on the goodness and ugliness still existent in our country.
Hsieh has done a remarkable job with simply telling the story without trying to embellish or overstate it. And coupled with a wonderfully simple and unobtrusive set from Christopher Mumaw and lighting from Robert Falk, the team has given the story life and heart.
But as I said, a show like this hinges on its remarkable cast. Gordon Hendrickson as Miss Daisy's affable son Boolie has taken the character beyond the supporting role used for exposition and given him a genuine depth. Harrid brings a kind of charming honesty to the role of Hoke and keeps him likable and grounded. And Sharples turns in a stunning performance of a spitfire of an older lady without ever devolving into a caricature of the role. And both she and Harrid manage a remarkable transformation both in age and attitude as the play ventures from 1948 to 1973.
There's not much more I can say except go see this show! It's a simple story filled with complex and engaging characters told by a cast and crew who respect and understand what it's trying to tell. I'm not generally a crier in the theater. Movies and TV yeah but not in live theater. But this production got me going fairly early on and kept me going through the end. So be sure to bring in the tissues with you at the top of the show as there is no intermission for you to compose yourself.
"Driving Miss Daisy" from ReAct Theatre performs at Richard Hugo House through August 25th. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.reacttheatre.org.
Photo credit: David Hsieh