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Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave at the Golden Theatre
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Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave at the Golden Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Driving Miss Daisy
(Driving Miss Daisy Website)

James Earl Jones
(James Earl Jones Bio)

Vanessa Redgrave
(Vanessa Redgrave Bio)

Boyd Gaines

By Alfred Uhry
Directed by David Esbjornson

At the
Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
New York, NY

Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Pater Kaczorowski
Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington
Music: Mark Bennett
Sound Design: Christopher Cronin
Casting: Dave Clemmons, CSA
Technical Supervisor: Larry Morley
Marketing Director: Above the Title Entertainment
Advertising: SPOTCO
Press Representative: O&M Co.
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Company Manager: Bruce Klinger
Production Stage Manager: Karen Armstrong

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 27, 2010 Matinee

To see Vanessa Redgrave as Daisy Werthan and James Earl Jones as Hoke Coleburn in Alfred Uhry’s timeless Driving Miss Daisy is to have a life altering experience. Suddenly the mind is expanded, one sees things differently, especially as they relate to race, to relationships, to the ripening process of aging. Ms. Redgrave becomes the stoic, straight-laced, stubborn Southerner, a Jewish woman with the linguistic inflection of Atlanta. Her gray-white hair frames her regal face like curtains frame a window. A single glance, a gesture, a brief comment become mesmerizing in the moment. Ms. Redgrave is a master of her craft, an iconic presence on the stage. Mr. Jones, in purely masculine manner, is likewise a master of his craft, an iconic presence on the stage. As the Southern black man in need of work, hired by Daisy’s son (Boyd Gaines), to drive his aging mother to chores and church, Mr. Jones transforms from servant to savior.

Both characters are equally ingrained with pride and thick skin. They initially absorb mutual insults and demands, but, eventually, they lose that ability, as their toughness breaks down over two decades of togetherness. When Daisy refuses to allow Hoke to go into the woods for a personal emergency, as they find themselves lost on an excursion, the pain in his stance and voice is palpable, before he takes charge. On arrival at the wedding, when Hoke’s told to wait outside, the vision of pain fills the stage with pathos. You know some humor will follow soon enough, but you almost can’t bare the wait. Race is the thread that weaves the connected scenes, but by Act II it’s secondary to themes of loneliness, loss, and unshakable love. When Daisy can’t manage at home, Boolie Werthan, her lawyer son, puts her in a nursing home and brings Hoke to visit. Left alone, Hoke feeds Daisy with a spoon. Their symbiosis comes full circle, their interdependency erases race. Their love now encompasses respect.

Boyd Gaines, as Boolie, exudes distance and frustration as the son of a strong-minded, aging mother, one who shouldn’t be let behind the wheel. His relationship with Hoke is threadbare; it’s an employer and a helper. But, like Daisy, he grows to recognize Hoke as part of their world. David Esbjornson directs with a sensitive touch, allowing for these unique actors to seem unrestrained. Silence is meaningful in the poignancy of dialogue and action. It evokes the unspoken emotion of the characters’ condition. Wendall K. Harrington’s projections bring scenes of civil rights marches into Daisy and Hoke’s space. John Lee Beatty’s riveting sets are in many ways larger than life. Daisy’s car, driven by Hoke, actually spins onstage, while constructed with open sides. Daisy’s kitchen has stairs, stove, and a lived-in look. I hope to see this show one more time, just to watch Ms. Redgrave and Mr. Jones. They give so much of themselves, and it’s all so natural. Kudos to both.

Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines
in Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones
in Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at