By Beki Pineda; Image: Cherry Creek Theater Company
DRIVING MISS DAISY. Written by Alfred Uhry; directed by Pat Payne. Produced by Cherry Creek Theatre Company (at the Shaver-Ramsey Rug Gallery, Third and Josephine, Denver) through June 28. Tickets available at 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org.
Sometimes you look forward to seeing a play because you’ve never seen it before and you’re curious. Or you have seen it and liked it and want to see it again. Sometimes you’ve had a good experience previously at a theater and are eager to take a chance on their new production. Sometimes you’ve seen people in the cast and want to see what they will do in a different role. With me and Miss Daisy, it was a little bit of all of the above, but mostly it was to see what these three superlative actors would do with this touching script in this fun theater space.
For those of you who have yet to discover Cherry Creek’s space and think I’m kidding when I say they perform in a rug gallery, you are in for a surprise. Up until 5pm, rugs are stacked and displayed in the front showroom. At 5:01pm, the changeover crew arrives, stacks the rugs in different rooms, hangs some over the windows to block the light and curious eyes, and prepares the space for theater. Sound and light equipment is re-installed; set pieces come out of storage; costumes are taken to the dressing rooms; chairs are set up for the audience. By 7 o’clock the space has been converted to a theater in the round (or nearly); the army of volunteers have arrived to usher and dispense refreshments. At 7:30, the lights dim and the second phase of the theater magic begins.
The story of Miss Daisy happens over the course of the last 30 years of her life. When she is 65, her son Boolie deems her too forgetful and dangerous to drive. He hires an extremely confident, patient and clever African-American to drive her places . . . over her vociferous complaints. But Hoke wins her over with his innate goodness and understanding of the ache of aging. Together they travel life’s roads for the decades of the late 1940s to the early ’70s. Together but separately, they experience the breakdown of segregation, the rise of the civil-rights movement, the death of a leader and the death of a President. They grow old together—he in the front seat, she in the back. It’s a sweet, touching tale of friendship.
A good theater and a good script are now topped off by a great cast. Billie McBride demonstrates why she received last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Colorado Theatre Guild AND that her achievements of a lifetime are not finished. Her commitment to Miss Daisy’s cantankerousness and Southern Jewish charm are fun to watch. This role takes an actress who is not afraid to let the audience see her age. Billie takes Miss Daisy from a smart-alecky, just barely senior citizen to a really old woman shuffling in from her nursing-home room.
Right beside her is Cajardo Lindsey as Hoke, her driver. He’s younger than Daisy by 10 or 15 years, but his transition from competent, thoughtful driver to elderly friend and companion is lovely to behold. The role of Boolie, Miss Daisy’s son, could be a throw-away role, only there to connect Hoke and Miss Daisy. But in the competent hands of Mark Collins—whose versatility continues to astound—Boolie becomes an important character in this triumvirate. Mark’s quiet love of his mother and his easy friendship with Hoke add another dimension to this production.
In their third year in the space, the technical team gets better and better at making a nontheatrical space function as a full-blown theater. So for a sweet script performed in a unique space by a talented cast, head out to Cherry Creek Theatre.
WOW factor: 8.5