Nicola Lipman, John Campbell3

Driving Miss Daisy is the tale of an elderly Southern Jewish woman and her chauffeur, spanning a 25-year friendship. The two characters are brought together by Daisy Werthan’s son, Boolie, who’s searching for a chauffeur following his mother’s car accident. At 72, her driving days are numbered.

Nicola Lipman, Brian Linds
[Nicola Lipman, Brian Linds]

Enter feisty, stingy, independently-minded Daisy (in a shining performance by Nicola Lipman), the last person on Earth who believes she’s in need of someone to drive her around. After much trepidation, she finally begins to warm up to Hoke Coleburn (John Campbell), a true Southern black gentleman, used to driving folks around. Dealing with Daisy requires the patience of a saint and Hoke somehow manages to deal with both her snide remarks and picky character.

[Nicola Lipman, John Campbell]

As we’re taken to Georgia in the years leading up to the civil rights movement, a Southern twang is affixed to all three actors. As well, tensions between black and white people are referenced to at times, exposing racial prejudice. In a parallel twist, Daisy is also subject to religious prejudice – her synagogue is bombed on the same Saturday that Hoke happens to be driving her to service. Daisy is a widow going through life just fine on her own, but what’s lovely about this tale is the growing trust and eventual friendship between she and Hoke.

A former school teacher, she’s nearly aghast to learn that her chauffeur never learned to properly read. She eventually offers up an old writing textbook to get him to practice. The play weaves in and out of their adventures, some simply involving a ride to the grocery store.

Nicola Lipman, John Campbell

Later in the play, Daisy is finally moved to a retirement home (by then she’s nearly 90). She’s long changed her outlook towards blacks, and is eager to spend time with Hoke, her best friend in the world, when he comes to visit with Boolie. Hoke too is no longer able to walk properly and has long since stopped driving. A tender Thanksgiving scene closes the two hour (including intermission) play; a sweet, heartfelt look at two different characters whose lives intermingle for the better.

Serving double duty is Brian Linds as Boolie Werthan, Daisy’s mother, and the show’s sound designer. Composer Robert Waldman’s scene-changing interludes evoke the South with banjo picking and short pieces using violin and cello, working nicely with the pace of the two-act play.

The Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage is simply divided into two areas: Daisy’s living room, and her son’s office, where he mostly conducts business with Hoke. A lone Tiffany table lamp serves as a splash of colour in an otherwise conservatively-decorated living room. Set Designer Ted Roberts also creates a car by way of a wooden bench with a chair in front of it. It works along with car door and engine sounds created for the production by Linds.

Brian Linds, Nicola Lipman

Driving Miss Daisy comes to us courtesy of über-talented, Atlanta-born playwright Alfred Uhry, with a Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, and two Tony Awards under his belt. He made his Broadway debut in 1968 with Here’s Where I Belong. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts and Annabeth Gish.

Driving Miss Daisy continues at the Granville Island Stage through March 15.

Photos by David Cooper.

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