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January 17, 2006 > Driving Miss Daisy a delightful season opener

Driving Miss Daisy a delightful season opener

by Praveena Raman

Broadway West kicked off its 2006 season with an excellent production of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize winning play Driving Miss Daisy. The show opened on Friday January 13, well timed for the Martin Luther King weekend, and can be seen through February 11, 2006 at Broadway West Theatre in Fremont. A refreshing change from large opulent productions, this play is at its best with its simplicity and a cast size of three.

Set in Atlanta in the 1950s, Uhry's play is a tender tale of a friendship that slowly develops between a rich, educated, Jewish woman and her African American chauffeur over a period of 25 years. The plot outlines changes that happen in people over the years and racial problems inherent at that time. The rich character development present in the original play is handled well by director Troy Johnson. Even with the simple setting, Troy's attention to details stands out in making this play a superb rendition. The cast of three consists of Mary Galde as Daisy Werthan, the wealthy Jewish Lady, Ray Medved as Boolie Werthen, her son and Stephen Randolph as Hoke Coleburn, her unwanted chauffeur.

Mary Galde's portrayal of Miss Daisy is outstanding. In the beginning, Mary portrays a 72 year-old Daisy who wants to be independent, but is forced to be dependent on a chauffeur. Her stature is erect though her hair has turned gray. As the play unfolds, Mary ages from 72 to 97 by the end of the play. Aging is gradual but very visible as her stature shrinks in size, limbs stiffen and grow weaker, making it difficult for her to get in and out of the car until she ends up using a walker in the final scene. Mary handles the quick dress changes and getting back into character with enviable panache.

Stephen Randolph as Hoke Colburn also shows his mettle. It is wonderful to see the interplay between Miss Daisy and Hoke and the subtle, droll sense of humor present throughout the play. It was also nice to see his matching portrayal of aging. The final scene is the most touching as Miss Daisy tries to eat a piece of pie for Thanksgiving. Finding it very hard with her hand shaking uncontrollably, Hoke takes the fork and feeds a friend. The two are ably supported by Ray Medved as Boolie Werthen, Miss Daisy's son. Southern accents and mannerisms are well portrayed by all three characters.

The popular Oscar-winning movie boasted a larger cast and life-size props. However, Broadway West did extremely well with imaginary substitutes. Virtual car doors opened and Hoke drove the imaginary car so well you forgot it was not real. Sound effects by Andy Arms-Roberts were outstanding; starting the car engine, dogs barking and the sound of horns honking in a traffic jam are all very realistic.

Driving Miss Daisy at Broadway West is an entrancing evening's entertainment and certainly worth seeing. It can be enjoyed by families though younger children might be bored missing nuances in the conversations.

Driving Miss Daisy continues through Feb 11th
Thurs-Sat: 8 p.m. - Sundays: 1 p.m.
Broadway West Theatre
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218

Thursdays: $15 general admission
Fridays & Saturdays: $20 general admission; $15 seniors (65+) & students
Sundays: $20 general admission

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