‘Miss Daisy’ at Tipping Point is a driving success
NORTHVILLE, MI–Because of the Oscar winning film, many of us are familiar with the play, and story, Driving Miss Daisy. Even if you have seen it, get yourself to Tipping Point Theatre here because this production—featuring Ruth Crawford, Brian Marable and David Bendena—is as good a production of this excellently written story as you will see anywhere…including Broadway.
The place is Atlanta Georgia. The time covered is 1948-1973. Miss Daisy (Crawford) has just cracked up her newish Packard sedan. Her son Boolie (Bendena) has the awkward task many adult children are familiar with—taking the keys away from an elderly parent. He hires Hoke (Marable,) an out-of-work African-American driver, to shuttle Miss Daisy.
At first, Miss Daisy wants no part of Hoke. She pretends he is not sitting in her kitchen reading the paper, waiting for her to want to go somewhere. To say that Daisy, a wealthy Jewish widow, is prickly toward Hoke is an understatement. She evn tries to get Boolie to fire him for a non-existent petty household offense.
But Hoke is a man of the world, and has charm and integrity that slowly melts the ice encasing Miss Daisy.
The story and script is masterfully written and crafted by playwright Alfred Uhry. The story and relationship between Hoke and Daisy is layered as the two explore economic and social class differences, race relations in that critical time of the Truman White House to the Nixon White House , as well as he dynamics of friendship.
Ms. Crawford is so good at balancing the hard with the soft aspects of Daisy, and navigating to her ultimate vulnerability that she could take her performance to any theatre in the country, including New York. She owns this character.
Mr. Marable is equally superb as he walks the tightrope between occupying a place in the household that is true to his station as “the help,” but also picking his places, provided by Uhry, to assert his pride and independence at exactly the right times to advance his own feeling of self-worth. At a time and place when there are plenty of people to step on Hoke’s neck, he realizes that Daisy has a good and ethical mind and heart, and he is lucky to have her as his employer.
The character of Boolie is often played differently by different actors. Between Director Brian Sullivan Taylor and Mr. Bendena, they arrived at Daisy’s son being a bit loud, but knowing and sweet in his own way. His respect for Hoke and his love for his mother are never far from his mind. It’s an effective fresh take on Boolie.
This trio of actors, obviously led by a first-class director, illuminate one of the best stage scripts of the last forty years.
Vince Mountain designed a set with a back wall with illuminated newspaper front-pages that light depending on the period of time. There are chairs that get a lot use as Daisy and Hoke use four chairs– clustered two in front of two for the driving scenes. Hoke uses a small round accent able as his steering wheel. It all feels right for translating even a drive from Atlanta to Alabama to the stage.
Sound was designed by Sonja Marquis, and works beautifully throughout as everything from nature sounds to car sounds dot the entire 90-minute production. Marley Boone designed costumes. Neil Koivu designed lighting. Beth Duey on props. Bill Van Gieson was Technical Director and Noel Walker is Associate Technical Director.