Set in the South in the 1940s-70s, DRIVING MISS DAISY by Alfred Uhry might be the best production I’ve seen at Act II Playhouse.
Daisy Werthan (Carla Belver) is a widowed Jewish woman who is losing her knack behind the wheel. Her son Boolie (Tony Braithwaite) steps in and sets out to hire a chauffeur despite her initial protests. He finds Hoke Coleburn (Brian Anthony Wilson), an older, cheery, hard-working black man. Daisy and Hoke strike up an unexpected friendship that was highly unusual in the South when segregation and antisemitism were the norm.
Belver is amazing and hilarious in her portrayal of Daisy’s progression and deterioration throughout the decades. Her masterful acting hushed a tremendously vocal crowd at a critical, emotional time (bring your tissues). Wilson is a breath of fresh air. His complete grasp on his character Hoke made the show. He is silly and poignant, contemplative and carefree exactly when called for. Finally, Braithwaite delivers another solid performance as the level-headed son who sees things as they are and never sways from doing what he knew he had to do even in the face of difficult realities.
Director James J. Christy brought out the best of his talented group, making even the smallest components shine. The story comes to life and the audience is left impressed by every aspect of the show from the actors, the set (Britt Plunkett), and the story, to the theater itself.
[Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Avenue] March 1–26, 2016; act2.org