Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler
Fenton Village Players’ Second Season is proving to be quite successful. For just one weekend audiences were treated to an excellent performance of Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry.
Uhry is one of the few writers, playwrights, and screenwriters to be awarded an Academy Award, two Tony Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. He works out of Atlanta and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
Driving Miss Daisy details the relationship of Daisy Werthan and Hoke Coleburn over a period of 25 years starting in 1948. Daisy’s son decides to hire her a driver after she totals her car, the garage, and an adjoining shed. She doesn’t want a driver and cites many reasons. In the end, the son prevails.
The Saturday night performance that we attended was dedicated to the victims of the church massacre in Atlanta. The play deals with numerous sensitive issues revolving around race. The time frame takes us through these tumultuous and dangerous times, but the play is also about how people relate to each other and how they teach each other.
Mary Powers played Daisy Werthan and Dennis Sykes played Hoke Coleburn. They have performed this show before for Buckham Alley Theatre and others. They are a wonderful team and put on a clinic for theatre goers. Both have been involved in various theatres for some time.
A word about the set before I comment further. The play was performed in the lobby/meeting room of the Fenton Village Players. The production team created three different performance platforms which fit into one side of the room. They used screens to help with entrances. A very tight space to be sure, but the actors used the set perfectly and made the space seem much bigger. Shades of the old Buckham Alley Theatre, and a testament to the fact that theatre can be done anywhere.
Powers gave a strong performance as Daisy. She handled the changing time smoothly and with good use of costumes. Her portrayal of Daisy as she got older was right on the mark. She also handled the two men well, making all of us believe she was in charge.
There were no awkward moments between Powers and Sykes. As Hoke, Sykes played his character perfectly portraying Hoke as a whole lot smarter than he let on and seeming to know how to gain the trust of others easily. He also handled the march of time nicely. There were numerous emotional scenes in the play. Daisy’s struggle to hang on to her freedom and Hoke’s battle to maintain his job and earn his keep was a classic struggle, but it was one which both characters won.
The driving scenes were especially well played. It’s amazing what can be done with just a few acting blocks.
Matthew Semrau played Boolie Werthan, Daisy’s son. He was well-meaning, but he is caught in the racism of the South and finds change difficult. Semrau did a good job of portraying this character. Boolie did his mother one great favor by hiring Hoke, however it isn’t clear in the play if she appreciated his efforts. Semrau also did a good job of navigating between the comedic and the serious.
The ending was precious. Hoke and Boolie visited Daisy in the rest home. After she sent Boolie out, the play ended with a wonderful expression of friendship and love between the older couple.
I gave this show five stars. They received a well-deserved standing ovation. A little glow tape on some of the steps would have made the entrances and exits somewhat easier. The lighting cues were right on the mark, and the music was well adapted to the play. The tech crew did a good job Driving Miss Daisy.
Unfortunately, Driving Miss Daisy was only performed over one weekend and was sold out. They could have easily done two weeks. I recommend that you check out the Fenton Village Players for upcoming productions both on the main stage and their Second Season.
Fenton Village Players is located at 14197 Torrey Road., Fenton, MI 48430. For tickets or more information call 810-750-7700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.fentonvillageplayers.wordpress.com