BWW Reviews: DRIVING MISS DAISY A Charming Cruise at Dundalk Community Theater
DRIVING MISS DAISY, written by Alfred Uhry, features a tiny cast, many settings and a prolonged expanse of time. This requires much of both the actors and the offstage creators of the show. Director Joey Hellman and his thoughtfully chosen cast bring us a visually lush portrayal of a (perhaps) unlikely but (certainly) inevitable friendship between Miss Daisy and her chauffeur.
The Dundalk Community Theater is located on the campus of CCBC, Dundalk. It is everything you would expect a community college theater to be, minus carpet. The seats are roomy and raked, the walk from the parking lot to the box office is clear and short, the stage is broad and deep, allowing for an intricate, interesting set.
The set, designed by technical director Marc Smith, was a lovingly appointed multi-level affair, with three designated set areas and one "neutral" area, which was "dressed" differently for different scenes. Each of the permanent sets was much more richly furnished than the script suggests, beautifully lit and easy to see. The characters seem at home in them. The "car" was a pair of benches, the rear one elevated, and was otherwise created by the actions of the performers.
The actors adopted an accent or drawl that might be faithful to the Atlanta, Georgia (I'm from Baltimore and can just barely tell Tennessee from Alabama) of the play's setting, but being local (read: Eastern) actors, tended to speak at Eastern speed, which made them difficult to understand. After the first sequence, Jim Knost, as Miss Daisy's son, Boolie Werthan, settled into a soothing rhythm and was clear for the rest of the show. At the outset, William A. Walker, who played the character of the driver, Hoke Coleburn, tended to swallow some of his lines, which disappointed me, because I quite enjoyed his timing and delivery when I could understand him, but he, too became more clear as the show progressed. Carol Conley Evans, playing the title character of Miss Daisy Werthan, struggled with the trick of slowing down a drawl in order to be understood clearly. Evans otherwise did a convincing, engaging job portraying the independent, feisty temperament of a woman reluctant to accept the reality of her own aging, though her abundant energy sometimes was at odds with Miss Daisy's gradually increasing frailty. The chemistry between the cast members created relationships that felt authentic and deep.
The body microphones the actors wore were a bit echoey. Otherwise, the technical aspects of the show were praiseworthy. The sound designer's additions to the show were crucial (start of an engine, singing birds, crickets) to the suggestion of the various environments, and the lighting was unobtrusively appropriate for each scene.
All three actors did a gratifyingly good job interacting with various parts of a car that wasn't actually there. They gave weight and depth to it, and were consistent in the placement of door handles. This is more difficult than it sounds.
The vignette nature of the script's construction runs the risk of seeming choppy, rushed or disjointed- known in the business as 'pacing problems'. It was none of these. It did, however, seem as if there was a prolonged amount of time between the pieces, considering there was no set change required, just a lighting shift. In a show composed of many short sequences- and an equal number of blackouts between- the director faces pacing problems of the other extreme.
The script, which treats race relations, class division, religious integrity and issues of aging, is an ambitious undertaking, and surprisingly full of humorous moments, which the actors conveyed with subtlety and aplomb. The story was based on the writer's observations of his grandmother and her chauffeur. Some of the language may surprise younger audience members, but was culturally appropriate at the time.
The show runs at Dundalk Community Theater through Sunday the 2nd of March, 2014. in the John E. Ravekes Theatre, K Building. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday night at 8pm, Sunday matinee at 3pm. Tickets are $23 for adults, $20 for senior adults and $15 for students/DCT Actors/Children 12 and under. For tickets and information, call 443-840-2787. The CCBC Box Office is open between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, or visit www.ccbcmd.edu/performingarts/dct.html. Dundalk Community Theatre is in residence at the Community College of Baltimore County, Dundalk, 7200 Sollers Point Road.
Photo courtesy of CCBC.