One of the cleverest and most successful decisions Pasadena Little Theatre has made was composing the survey last season. Patrons chose their favorite productions from past years at PLT to comprise the schedule for 2015’s celebration of their 60th Anniversary. The Diamond Jubilee of outstanding presentations, ever since 1955, reprises memories of their best work.
Certainly, in the top three or four, if not at the top, is “Driving Miss Daisy.” The return of this wonderfully entertaining and touching play was made even more memorable because the unforgettable cast of the three theater dynamos from the original PLT production came back!
What a coup for Director Julie Owen! (Perhaps the skill and talent of Julie was a ‘magnet’ for the three to agree to repeat their remarkable performances.) Just a personal note – after this writer first saw “Daisy” at PLT, I attended a performance of this classic in one of the premier theaters in Houston – a company that always delivers top-flight stage offerings – and I came away with the surprising thought…PLT’s was better!
Seeing the play at PLT again with a full house, I have not changed my mind.
Zona Jane Meyer as Miss Daisy Werthan, well-off Jewish widow; Mark Stanley as her businessman son, Boolie and Dave Osbie Shepard as Hoke Coleburn as her chauffer were all born to play these believably human characters of their time in history.
Beginning about 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia, the often turbulent relationships of these three progress until 1973. The backdrop of these twenty-five years of upheaval in the country – and especially in the South – reflects the cultural re-shaping of the lives involved – even though they don’t welcome those changes.
Miss Daisy is in her 70’s and resents her son’s insistence mightily that she is no longer able to drive her car – safety and insurance-wise. Boolie, her son, hires an experienced driver, Hoke, over his mother’s strong objections. Beyond her independent feeling that she does NOT need him, Miss Daisy is a product of her entire life in Atlanta – Hoke is “colored.” Although her long-time housekeeper/cook, Idella, is “colored” – “that’s different.” Hoke stays because only Boolie can fire him…so begins the hilarious give and take between a strong-willed old lady and unbelievably patient gentleman. Hoke is not the only target of Miss Daisy’s sharp tongue. She has plenty left over for her Jewish daughter-in-law, “who socializes with Episcopalians!”
Resisting all the way, she gradually allows Hoke to drive her around town – all the while telling him what route they should take to the Piggly-Wiggly and everywhere else.
Touching glimpses are seen as the two begin to share insights into their growing up – Miss Daisy in a poor part of Atlanta on Forsyth Street, finally becoming a 5th-grade teacher and Hoke, as a black boy near rural Macon, Georgia.
Highlights in their years together include the disappearance of one can of salmon and the revelation on a visit to the cemetery that Hoke cannot read and Miss Daisy’s initial attempts to teach him. When bigots bomb Miss Daisy’s Jewish Temple, a comparison is drawn between that incident and lynchings of blacks, which Hoke has witnessed.
One of the most comical situations occurs when Hoke is driving her to Mobile, Alabama for an elderly cousin’s birthday party; getting lost and Hoke’s need for a pit stop! Toward the end of the 25 years, the audience is treated to the common bond and common need between the two souls.
This jewel of entertainment will continue at Pasadena Little Theater, 4318 Allen-Genoa Road, south of extreme west Fairmont Parkway, on weekends through Sunday, February 8, with evening performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Call 713-941-1758 for complete information and reservations.
Written by: Gloria W. Smith