Driving Miss Daisy
Also see David's review of The Triumph of Love
A strong director, a strong play and a strong pair of leads should add up to a more exuberant ride than is provided in Village theatre's current mounting of Driving Miss Daisy. It's a short and sweet evening, but too measured in its pacing and lacking in any really big laughs or tear jerking moments to be the unqualified success it ought to be.
Alfred Uhry's popular play, which was an Academy Award winning film vehicle for Jessica Tandy's career-capping turn as Miss Daisy, is really a pretty straightforward character study, and in some ways the love story of an oddly paired duo who over several decades grow to have a mutual admiration society. Director Jeff Steitzer may have too urbane a sensibility for such a folksy charm piece (he was much more in his element with his snappy yet undeniably affecting direction of Dirty Blonde at ACT last season), and this is somewhat the case with both his leading actors.
Pros that they are, Marianne Owen and Timothy McCuen Piggee don't really inhabit the roles of the crotchety Miss Daisy and her amiable but opinionated chauffeur Hoke. Owen seems altogether too capable and functional at the play's outset, when Miss Daisy's car wreck causes her driver's license to be suspended, necessitating son Boolie's hiring of a driver for her. Piggee seems a bit stiff in these early scenes, and as fine a character actor as he is, he fails to convey his character in middle age with real conviction.
Yet, a few scenes in, real chemistry between Owen and Piggee clicks in, and interestingly, they play their characters in old age with more conviction than when she's in her seventies and he's in his sixties. There is much to enjoy in the final hour of this intermissionless show, and a few genuine tears are bound to fall in its final moments when Hoke visits his former passenger in her retirement home. Michael Mahoney is earnest if a bit colorless in the admittedly underwritten role of Boolie (a role beefed up a bit when Dan Akroyd essayed it in the film).
Rick Paulsen's lighting design is solid, and actually makes John Petterson's rather drab scenic designs a bit more eye-catching. Melanie Burgess' costumes are rather perfunctory, but kudos to Robert Waldman's catchy score which actually got the sound of the score from the film out of my head while watching the show. To sum up, this Driving Miss Daisy is neither a triumph nor an embarrassment, but it does play out as something of a filler production between Village Theatre's big musicals.
Driving Miss Daisy runs through February 23 at Village Theatre, 303 Front Street North, Issaquah, and February 28-March 16 at Everett Performing Arts Center. For further information visit the Village Theatre web-site at www.villagetheatre.org.