June 14, 2010

Darkness and Light


"They are like having little children in the house. They want something so they just take it. Not a smidgen of manners. No conscience." This is Miss Daisy's summation of all "coloreds," including the chauffeur her son has just foisted upon her. But you know she's not prejudiced. What a hateful thing to say, that she might be prejudiced! It's Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" at Centre Stage--the the hilarious and touching ride through Daisy's thirty-year relationship with her chauffeur.

The cast is uniformly funny. Rick Connor's perennially agitated Boolie, Clark Nesbitt's affable Hoke, and Shirley Sarlin's conflicted rich lady Daisy. They'll keep you in stitches as they pair up and square off over trifles (going 20mph under the speed limit? ambrosia? a can of salmon?) and not-so-trifles (the proper care of graves. Learning how to read. Lynchings.) As Daisy and Hoke bicker and poke their way to an unconfessed affection for each other, they don't miss a single exasperated joke, and neither does the audience.

My only quibble is this: perhaps we laugh too much. The most profound and important scene thematically (the "invitation" to the Martin Luther King, Jr. banquet) is played as coyly as a sketch on high school break-ups. Sure we laugh, but we lose the punch: The cowardice that Daisy still faces after all these years of friendship and bombings and lynchings. Hoke's bravery in standing up to her. The fact that things haven't changed all that much. Not then. Not now. We're still having these same awkward, side-stepping conversations. But the potential disturbances are glanced over, lost, and the story quickly slips back into its house robe. It's a robe we love, light and airy and comforting. But had the production seized on this little bit of darkness, "light" could have meant more than an absence of weight. It could have been a beacon.

Profundities aside, Chip Egan still directs a doodle of a bittersweet show, a family-friendly knock-out that will beguile the night and send you out refreshed. Don't miss it.

Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" Directed by Chip Egan. Lights: Ron Pyle. Scene: David Hartmann. Sound: Wade Powell.
With Shirley Sarlin (Daisy), Clark Nesbitt (Hoke), and Rick Connor (Boolie).

Presented by Centre Stage, 501 River Street, Greenville, SC (864) 233-6733. Through June 26. Tickets $25, with discounts for seniors and students.

Posted by stephanie at June 14, 2010 07:23 AM | TrackBack