Professional Nonprofit Theater on Martha's Vineyard
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Driving Miss Daisy Still Tells a Timely Tale on Stage

Louisa Hufstader, Vineyard Gazette

Driving Miss Daisy opens at The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse on Thursday, Sept. 14 and runs through Oct. 7.MJ Bruder Munafo

Driving Miss Daisy, at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse through Oct. 7, wastes no time in pulling the audience into its world.

Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy begins with the sound of a shattering collision and moves briskly through 25 years in the life of widow Daisy Werthan and the two men closest to her, son Boolie and chauffeur Hoke. From start to finish, every moment in the play is alive.

Thirty years after the show — Mr. Uhry’s first — opened Off-Broadway, with Morgan Freeman originating the role he would play in the Academy Award-winning film, the Vineyard production is already a hit, with local audiences packing the seats at previews.

Directed by playhouse artistic and executive director MJ Bruder Munafo, Driving Miss Daisy stars Bonnie Black as Daisy, Marc Carver as Boolie and Rob Karma Robinson as Hoke. While the film version of Driving Miss Daisy had a cast of close to two dozen, including many other characters referred to in Mr. Uhry’s original script, these three are all the play ever needed to tell the story on stage.

Bonnie Black as Miss Daisy and Marc Carver as her son Boolie. — MJ Bruder Munafo

In 1948, prickly and imperious Daisy initially rebels when Boolie tells her she has to stop driving because she’s demolished a new Packard, a two-car garage and a freestanding tool shed — and besides, she’s too old.

“You’re 72, Mama,” he points out, in a line that touched off widespread snickers among the mature-trending audience at Tuesday’s preview. Fuming, his mother vows not to put up with it.

But Boolie, a practical businessman who inherited his father’s company, hires her a driver in a quietly hilarious interview that introduces the garrulous and emphatic Hoke. At 60 or so, Hoke has something to say on every topic, but his driving experience and manifest geniality get him the job.

Winning Boolie over was easy compared to the ordeal of getting Miss Daisy to accept him as her driver, but Hoke perseveres and the two gradually — almost grudgingly, at first — establish a bond that strengthens with the years. Along the way, each learns from the other, while navigating the minefields of mid-century racial prejudice and ant-Semitism.

Running under an hour and a half, Driving Miss Daisy proceeds in a series of quick scenes interlinked with music, sounds, and scraps of dialogue projected above the set. There’s no intermission to break the connection with the three linked characters, who convincingly age from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

Less is more throughout this tight production. Lisa Pegnato’s spare but effective set uses two chairs, one table and a settee to represent, in different configurations, not only Daisy’s home, Boolie’s office and various automobiles, but also the headstone of the late Mr. Werthan’s grave. Costume designer Cynthia Bermudes similarly keeps changes minimal, yet fully expressive.

All three actors are veterans of the Patricia Neal Stage at the playhouse in Vineyard Haven, where Ms. Black and Mr. Carver appeared together in Life X 3 in 2004. More recently at the playhouse, Ms. Bruder Munafo directed Mr. Robinson in The Blowin’ of Baile Gall in 2006 and Ms. Black performed in Rising Water in 2008.

For Driving Miss Daisy tickets and information, visit mvplayhouse.org.

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