Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

daisyIMG_7726 Charlotte Stewart as Daisy.  Photo.Maria Vartanova

Wheels are life changing for young and old. For teens, who have just earned driving licences, the right to drive signals freedom. For seniors, who may no longer drive, loss of their wheels means the end of independence.

So it was for 72-year-old Daisy Werthan of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948. After she crashes her car, her son, Boolie, forces his fiercely independent mother to accept that her driving days are over. The first task for the chauffeur he hires to ferry her around is to convince her to ride with him. (That takes six days — the same length of time that it took God to create the world, he muses.)

The 1987 dramaa Pulitzer prizewinner and successful 1989 movie starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman — traces the developing trust and deepening friendship between the wealthy Jewish widow and her black chauffeur over 25 years (1948 to 1973) — a quarter century that changed the face of the U.S. It also touches (lightly) on the civil rights movement and desegregation in the south. At the same time, playwright Alfred Uhry makes it clear that Daisy and Hoke are not only bonded by religious and racial prejudice, but also by aging and growing infirmity.

In the hands of the right performers, particularly the actress in the title role, Driving Miss Daisy is touching, funny and thought provoking. And the characterization of Daisy is entirely safe in the hands of Charlotte Stewart in the current Ottawa Little Theatre production, directed by Tim Ginley. Her carefully nuanced portrayal ages with such subtlety that her shrunken appearance in the final scene is a shock. In addition, the director’s placement of Hoke effectively emphasizes the contrast between her and the retired chauffeur. (He, too, finally loses the ability to drive as he ages.)

While there is less evidence of the passing of the years in the characterizations and appearances of her son Boolie by John Mark Keyes or Hoke by Michael Wright, both deliver credible interpretations.

Ably supported by the technical aspects of the show, particularly the choice and timing of the music, this production of Driving Miss Daisy continues the ongoing charm of a script that has been touching nerves for close to 30 years.

Driving Miss Daisy

By Alfred Uhry

Ottawa Little Theatre

Director: Tim Ginley

Set and Lighting: Margaret Coderre-Williams

Sound: Andrew Hamlin and LindsayWilson

Music: Ryan McNaughton

Costumes: Monica Browness

Cast:

Daisy…………………………………….Charlotte Stewart

Boolie……………………………………John Mark Keyes

Hoke……………………………………..Michael Wright