‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a trip back in time, or is it?
Timing is everything, and the tension of the times is perfect for the Plaza Theater Company’s presentation of “Driving Miss Daisy,” a 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about two minorities learning to get along. To respect. To bond.
Written a year earlier by Alfred Uhry, the play also requires perfect timing from the actors, because there are only three of them with no spectacular dance routines, no bring-down-the house musical numbers, no sight gags to distract from the dialogue.
And they nail it.
PTC newcomer but Metroplex veteran actor Marguerite Odgers is Daisy Werthan, PTC semi-regular A. Solomon Abah Jr. is Hoke Coleburn, and Miss Daisy’s son, Boolie Werthan, is played by Tim Herndon, in his second production at PTC.
You are probably familiar with the story from the 1989 movie staring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman that won an Oscar for best picture. Basically, it’s a 25-year relationship between an elderly and stubborn Southern Jewish widow and her African-American driver in Atlanta from 1948-1973 that starts after she wrecks her car and her son persuades her to hire a chauffeur.
The play is presented in a series of sketches that transports the audience from Boolie’s initial interview with Hoke to Miss Daisy’s disdain for him to the pair growing gracefully old together.
There are numerous references to the times, including the 1958 bombing of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue for its support of racial freedom, and Boolie turning down an invitation to a Martin Luther King dinner because he fears acceptance would jeopardize his business.
But it’s how Odgers and Abah Jr. handle the back-and-forth conversations, sometimes caustic, sometimes funny, sometimes soulful, that makes this another in a never-ending line of PTC must sees.
And, off course, the revolving stage at the Plaza gets involved, too, as a means of “driving” Miss Daisy around on a route that leads to a good evening at the theater.
Odgers has played Miss Daisy before, receiving Actress of the Year for her performance in Mesquite, according to the Playbill, and it’s obvious. She’s old-school-teacher rigid when necessary, cranky when cornered and realistic when required.
Abah Jr. has the perfect voice inflections to convey the feeling of being disrespected, but can just as quickly sound prideful and dignified.
It’s more than the words in this play, it’s how they are delivered, and all three actors deliver.
Off stage, director Kevin Poole deserves praise for driving the hammers that hit the nail.
With stage management by Stormy Lee, costume design by Emily Warwick, props by Soni Barrus, light design by Cameron Barrus and sound design by G. Aaron Siler, “Driving Miss Daisy” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at 3 p.m. Saturday through Aug. 24 at the Plaza Theater Company at Dudley Hall, 305 S. Anglin St. in Cleburne.
Tickets – $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and students, and $15 for children 12 and under – can be purchased online at www.plaza-theatre.com or at the box office.