by Lorie Lewis Ham
I remember long ago watching the 1989 movie Driving Miss Daisy staring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. It was a sweet film and a sweet story, so when I heard that Good Company Players were doing the show at 2nd Space this year, I marked it on my calendar. It seemed like a good way to start the new year.
Driving Miss Daisy is a play by American playwright Alfred Uhry about the relationship between an elderly white southern Jewish woman named Daisy Werthan, and her African American chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn. The play is set in the years 1948 to 1973. It was the first in his Atlanta Trilogy, which deals with white Jewish residents in Atlanta in the early 20th century, and it won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1988.
Miss Daisy (Mary Piona) is a snarky, somewhat prejudice, and very opinionated southern woman who likes to complain. When she has an accident with her car and her son Boolie (Billy Anderson) insists that she get a driver she is adamant that she will not use a driver. But it doesn’t take long once meeting Hoke (Ed Burke), until she finally gives in as he comes every day whether she uses him or not. Over the long span of time that Hoke drives for her, they build a lasting and close friendship and the prejudices that she at first denies fade away. They also bond over the prejudice they have both seen in the world against Jews and African Americans.
Mary Piona is a delight as Miss Daisy, and Ed Burke (who played the same role with GCP many years ago) was absolutely wonderful. The show is simple, but sweet, and very real. The pair of reluctant friends have a wonderful chemistry. Billy Anderson is very relatable as the frustrated son Boolie if you have ever had a difficult parent.
If you are looking for a feel good show that still makes you think, and laugh, this is the show for you. Driving Miss Daisy continues on stage at 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E Olive Ave in Fresno through February 24. Tickets can be purchased by calling their box office at 559-266-0660 or 800-371-4747, or on their website.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 11 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean. Also check out our other theatre articles and reviews in our Arts and Entertainment section.