Bas Bleu’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ is a sweet, well-executed performance of a story we fell in love with years ago

Those of us of a certain age no doubt remember the heartwarming 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy, starring Morgan Freeman and the late Jessica Tandy. What you might not know is that it was the only film based on an off-Broadway play ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Tandy also won Best Actress and Alfred Uhry, who wrote the play, won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation.

The cozy 99-seat theater at Bas Bleu is a perfect venue to see Driving Miss Daisy — the story of an unlikely friendship. Miss Daisy is a rich, stubborn, Jewish widow when the action begins in the late 1940s. When she drives her car into her neighbor’s garage, her son Boolie decides it’s time she should be off the roads and hires her a chauffeur. Miss Daisy is none too happy about this. She is incredibly reluctant to have anyone drive her anywhere, preferring to walk or take the trolley rather than lose her independence.

The play, directed by Jeffrey Bigger, spans 25 years and artfully and delicately depicts the growth and platonic love that develops between Hoke, the proud and endearing black chauffeur, played by Herman Gaddy, and the Southern aristocrat Miss Daisy, played by Bas Bleu founder Wendy Ishii. The only other character in the play is Boolie, played by Kristopher Erickson.

Driving Miss Daisy

Wendy Ishii and Kristopher Erickson in ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

The stage is set with three scenes: a kitchen, a “car”/living room, and an office — each highlighted as the scenes occur. My favorites were those between Miss Daisy and Hoke, since we really get to see the development of the two as their relationship grew and developed over the years. There were touching scenes — like when we learn of Hoke’s first time leaving the state of Georgia, funny scenes when we learn of Miss Daisy’s thoughts on the speed limit, and heartbreaking scenes when we learn what this passenger and driver have become to one another. Disparities aside, Uhry’s play shows that two people can’t be around each other day after day for 25 years without connecting on a human level.

We get lots of comic relief when Hoke and Boolie interact, sharing their frustrations, concerns, and disbelief over some of the quirky and endearing behaviors of Miss Daisy. We come to feel that it is not only the relationship between Hoke and Miss Daisy that is developing but also between Hoke and Boolie. Indeed, over the course of 25 years, Hoke becomes very much a member of the family — racial and socio-economic differences notwithstanding

This is a play you may well fall in love with no matter your age. And as one woman told me afterwards when I admitted I shed more than a few tears throughout: “Just wait ’til you’re my age. It’ll get you even more.”

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