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Driving Miss Daisy

Historic Arcade Theatre and Home of the Florida Rep Company as seen from Bay Street. Courtesy Florida Rep
Historic Arcade Theatre and Home of the Florida Rep Company as seen from Bay Street. Courtesy Florida Rep
Rating
4.7/5

This fantastic sold-out event warmed the heart and charmed the soul. The characters were delightfully conceived and presented by Mujahid Abdul-Rashid (Hoke Coleburn), Sara Morsey (Daisy Werthan), and Jason Parrish (Boolie Werthan). If you’ve seen the 1989 film, it’s clear that the Florida Rep presentation better captures the emotional and memorable qualities of author Alfred Uhry’s work.

From beginning to end, the interactions between the persnickety Miss Daisy and the almost always forbearing chauffeur Hoke tug at one’s heart. Daisy’s son Boolie is caring, lovable, and protective of his mom. She delights in bantering with him about day-to-day matters associated with her advancing years (like fender benders), her humility, loyalty to friends, and frequent references to her dignity and childhood days of poverty. He is patient, humorous and amiable, and one notices and reacts tenderly to the clever mother-son badinage.

When Daisy and Hoke meet, we want them to become pals. While tentative at first, we watch their friendship inexorably mature as their mutual needs and kindness bring them together.

The Florida Rep is commended for presenting an authentic performance set in the author’s intended period. While one may argue that some stereotypes are dated, associated tensions gently bring to the forefront a changing American society in the Atlanta of yesteryear. The fears and plights of both Jews and African Americans are juxtaposed as we sense the emergence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a force for positive change. Daisy, a well-to-do Jewish widow and former schoolteacher, teaches Hoke to read as he becomes an integral part of her life. Although this is not a piece overtly addressing cultural inequities, its subtle messages are clearly and calmly educed. Rather, this work focuses on how two disparate characters can bond within unusual circumstances, mutual need, and reciprocal admiration.

With simple stage settings, sound effects, recorded music (banjo, cello, and violin), we are drawn into the storyline, sensing the pathos of the delightful characters with their heartache, drama, and spirit. We effortlessly visualize the opening and closing of car doors, humming of the engine, and sounds of the road. Congratulations to Maureen Heffernan (Director), Richard Crowell (Scenic Designer), Adam Trummel (Sound Designer), Todd O. Wren (Lighting Designer), and the rest of the crew for their craft and attention to detail. Well done!

As this story from time fades, we longingly view Daisy’s home appurtenances replete with her phone, knitting needles, and comfortable chair. While it is genuinely heartbreaking when at last she cannot live independently in her home, we are rewarded with a poignant closing scene and reminders of the passing of time, acts of kindness, life’s loves, friends, families, travails, and destinations. The ever kind Boolie promises Hoke that he shall continue to receive the salary paid for caring for Daisy for as long as he lives.

Fellow audience members near me were equally impressed with the troupe’s oeuvre. It was story-telling at its best in this intimate performance space.

Driving Miss Daisy is closing soon, and you’ll need to move quickly to get tickets for its final performances and the upcoming performance of Into the Breeches.

Go to https://www.floridarep.org/the-season/ for the calendar and ticket information.

The Florida Rep Theatre is conveniently located with great free parking for patrons and marvelous pre-theatre restaurants.

2268 Bay Street, Fort Myers, Fl 33901,  (239) 332-4488

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Bliss Street, The Art Bath Artist Salon SeriesThe Singing Sphere, and Daughter of the Wicked.

Driving Miss Daisy

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