By Lynn Geyer
To quote Aya Hashiguchi Clark, the co-producer of Dukesbay Theatre, “Welcome to the first production of Dukesbay’s 2013 season – and the last.”
Clark went on to explain that after losing their facility at Tacoma’s First Congregational Church when it was sold, it has taken the small company almost a full year to obtain their current location and make renovations turning the empty space into a very intimate 50-seat theatre.
“Driving Miss Daisy,” by Alfred Uhry, is the first production in this space. It is a tight play with a cast of only three actors but it delves into many aspects of social mores and packs quite a punch.
“Daisy” is a story of growing older – of losing independence, losing decision making ability, breaking old taboos, finding friendship and love.
In 1948 Atlanta, Georgia, when 72-year-old Daisy Werthan crashes her car, her son Boolie decides it’s time for his mother to hang up her keys and hire a driver. Of course, Daisy is against the idea. Not only will she lose her independence, she has no desire to have a stranger in her house or driving her car.
Boolie wins the argument and hires Hoke Coleburn, an out of work black man who used to drive for a judge known to Boolie. As suspected, the feisty, though gentle Jewish woman is vehemently opposed to the idea and refuses to have Hoke drive her anywhere. Finally, the new employee convinces her that she is just wasting her son’s money if she doesn’t let him drive her.
Daisy reluctantly agrees and off they go to the Piggly Wiggly store – Hoke’s route, not Daisy’s – and they actually made it!
As the years go by, the mismatched pair realize how much they really have in common. Both have endured prejudice – he for his color, she for her religion. Daisy was a teacher for years; Hoke admits he can’t read so she teaches him. Through their 26 year relationship, their bond grows into a loving friendship.
During a time when mixed race friendships were rare, Director Julie Halpin has captured the essence of this plutonic love affaire, passed it onto her cast and presents it with all its heartfelt meaning. Halpin expertly uses every inch of the small stage.
David Wehmhoefer has designed a set which uses the full width of the space perfectly. Wehmhoefer has placed Daisy’s living room center stage with her car stage left, leaving room for her son’s office and home to be placed stage right with a slight alteration of a couple of pieces of furniture; Wehmhoefer also does the light design.
Nic Olson does the sound design and Matthew Anderson is Stage Manager with Alyssa Beattie his assistant.
Robert Geller is Boolie Werthen. He exudes genuine interest and caring about his mother’s welfare. Geller makes Boolie a firm but loving son.
Malcolm J. West is Hoke Colburn. West is the perfect quiet spoken companion to his ornery employer. His understanding and dedication and compassion for her are obvious.
Syra Beth Puett is Daisy Werthen. Always a competent actor, Puett has excelled in this role. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Puett had to re-learn her southern accent, which she has mastered perfectly. Likewise, she has to age 25 years with no aid other than her acting ability and body movements. Puett does a superlative job with the character.
“Driving Miss Daisy” continues at the new location for The Dukesbay Theatre at 508 S. Sixth Ave. #10, in downtown Tacoma through November 23, at 7:30 Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. matinees Sunday; there is a special 7:30 performance set for Thursday, November 21, as well.
For more information, or to make reservations, call the theatre at (253) 267-0869, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This new space is near the southeast corner of Tacoma and 6th Avenues in the Merlino Arts Center. The parking is scarce and it’s a walk up two flights of stairs to reach the fledgling theatre. However, just like “Driving Miss Daisy,” the trip is well worth it.