BWW Review: DRIVING MISS DAISY at The Vineyard Cafe And Dinner Theatre
The Vineyard Cafe and Dinner Theatre is serving up great Southern classics in Marietta Square. There's the Southern food. Delicious. Then there's the Southern drama. Also delicious. This perfect combination invites us to welcome back the idea of the traditional dinner theater, a mythological place where one can enjoy both good food and good theatre. If The Vineyard Cafe and Dinner Theatre's production of Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy is any indication of what this quaint, intimate venue has in store for us in the future, it's time to put out the welcome banners.
Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play tells the story of Daisy Werthan, a cantankerous and wealthy 72-year-old Jewish woman who is forced by her attentive son, Boolie, to engage a chauffeur after she crashes her car. The chauffeur turns out to be an African-American man named Hoke Colburn. Though their relationship gets off to a rocky start, over the course of 25 years, the two develop a friendship that transcends racial and socioeconomic dividers.
Tony Smithey, the director of this production, is born to tell stories. With four chairs and very little else, Smithey, who also plays Boolie, takes us deep into Daisy and Hoke's world, a world that is at times pleasant and at times a grim portrait of the intolerance that punctuates the years between 1948 and 1973, the time period of the play, Smithey is unapologetic as he stands before us to announce the location for a scene or to remove a light bulb from a rotating ceiling fan to signify that the intermission is over. His calm smile communicates to the audience that his cast can deliver the goods. And they dO. Gordon Danniels, as Hoke, is magnificent. His beautifully nuanced performance allows us to experience the world of the play through his eyes, to look on in horror as he reminds us that men dangle from trees in this world and that they can't use the bathroom at the Standard Oil because of the color of their skin. Danniels is vulnerable and truthful, just as any good Hoke must be. Also noteworthy is Smithey's turn as Boolie. He showcases a sensitivity that allows us to learn a great deal about Daisy through his interactions with her.
And the kitchen is keeping up their part of the story. The performance was paired with a lovely buffet of Southern favorites that boasted two delightful entrees: sliced fried chicken and frittata. The entrees were accompanied by black-eyed peas, salad, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. All excellent. But the crown jewel in the dinner was the pecan tart. Served on a little flowered saucer like the kind my grandmother used at tea time, the sweet, sticky tart was... how do you guys say this in the South?...it was so good you'll slap your own grandma 'cause she never made it for you.
There's nothing quite as lovely as an evening of theatre. Except, possibly, a big plate of comfort food. As it turns out, The Vineyard Café and Dinner Theatre is one-stop shopping.
For information and to make arrangements to attend the upcoming production of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, visit http://www.thevineyardcafe.com/default.html or call 678-581-3771.