by Lorraine Payette, written May 22, 2014
(Gananoque, ON) The results are in, and the Thousand Islands Playhouse production of Driving Miss Daisy is an all out winner. Playing to a sold-out house on opening night, the play received ecstatic and excited reviews from audience members.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Lois Creed of Dexter, NY. “It was so much better than the movie. Hollywood made it into a cute little comedy, but the play is so much more than that. The people were real, the experiences were real. I felt like I’d known them all my life.”
Creed, who will be 90 in September, enjoys coming out to the Playhouse in Gananoque when she has the opportunity. She finds the performances to be fresh and exciting, and says that the quality is always up to the highest standards.
Driving Miss Daisy is a play about love and friendship, of surviving through time in a society where so many prejudices exist and always managing to triumph. Taking place over a twenty-five year period, it follows the close relationship between an elderly Jewish widow of means living in Atlanta, Georgia, and her chauffeur, an African American man slightly younger than she and strong enough in temperament to accommodate her quirks. The two are counterbalanced by her long suffering son, Boolie, who somehow has to keep his mother alive, well and happy while trying to keep his own life and business running smoothly.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” said J. C. Kenny of CBC Radio. “The acting was wonderful, the storyline was compelling, it drew you in right away. Mostly I was just enchanted by the way they aged them. The actors were absolutely terrific at portraying that and really making you believe it. I was blown away by it.”
Over the course of the play the audience witnesses highlights of a relationship between these very believable characters. In only 90 minutes, they age 25 years very believably with minimal use of make-up and costume to aid them in the process.
“(Hoke starts at 60,) and I start at 72,” said Nicola Lipman (Daisy). “(Boolie is in his late 40s). And then we move 25 years later. It’s internal in a sense (as well as external), because it’s about time. The time that it takes to take a breath when you’re 90 is different from the time it takes to take a breath when you’re 70. Acting is about breathing and so is living. I think that’s why when you meet a lot of old people, they talk slowly and people get impatient with them. But they’re not talking slowly because they want to, they’re talking slowly because it takes longer for the synapses to fire, and it takes longer to take a breath and expel it, to say the words and think of them. That’s the texture of being old. And it happens in the body as well.”
“Most of the aging is done not just with the help of the costumes, but more with the body and where the body goes,” said Walter Borden (Hoke). “The body is incorporated into all of that.”
There is also a special chemistry between the characters that is both realistic and appealing. Although we usually associate eye contact and touch as being signs of close relationships, much of the play is spent with characters unable to look at each other, whether they are not sharing the same room or other space, or in the driving scenes with Daisy in the backseat as Hoke works in the front. Yet they maintain that closeness, that intimacy which adds another layer of believability to the performances.
“In life, we don’t always look at each other, but we’re very close,” said Borden. “You might be in the other room talking to somebody, and remain totally intimate.”
“I’ve seen the movie two or three times, and I love the stage play even better,” said Diane Stapley. “The stage play really focuses in on the real relationship between Miss Daisy and her chauffeur. I just love watching the two of them sparring over 20 years, and the actors are astonishing. I’m pretty happy.”
A family friendly show, it is recommended for people of all ages.
“I absolutely enjoyed the production,” said Charlene. “The acting was fabulous, and I was riveted from the first minute. Even when there was silence and there were just expressions, the three actors held the stage so very well. I saw the movie years ago and I found this production equally compelling.”
“This show is a production with Western Canada Theatre,” said Ashley Corcoran, artistic director for the Playhouse and director of Driving Miss Daisy. “We build it, create and rehearse it here, then in the fall the actors, myself, (and staff) will be travelling off to Kamloops and remounting it there, so we’re very excited.”
Driving Miss Daisy is playing from May 16 – June 14, 2014, at the Springer Theatre, 690 Charles Street South in Gananoque, Ontario. Running time for the play is 90 minutes. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday 8:00 pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm (starting the Wednesday after opening night). New for this year is a special American Sign Language Interpreted performance to be held on Saturday, June 7 at 2:30 p.m. There will also be a student matinee presented by the TD Bank Group on Wednesday, June 4, at 11:00 a.m. Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors age 65+, $16 for students. Half priced preview is May 16. HST is applicable to all ticket prices. Group tickets are available at $26 – $28 each including GST. This show is recommended for people of all ages. For more information, please go to http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-382-7020.