It’s February 2018, and Hoboken’s Mile Sq. Theater has welcomed Black Historical past Month within the period of Black Lives Matter with a manufacturing of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Underneath the route of Mark Cirnigliaro, the present does little apart from underscore the troubling racial politics of Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play. Perhaps there’s some attraction within the story of an African-American man taking an previous white girl’s crap lengthy sufficient that she ultimately comes round to kind of liking him, however why this play must see the stage in 2018 stays an open query.
After 72-year-old Atlanta firecracker Daisy (Barbara Broughton) totals her automobile, her son Boolie (Matthew Lawler) insists on hiring her a chauffeur and ultimately sends her Hoke (Depend Stovall), an out-of-work and illiterate African-American man who insists he’s delighted for the chance to work for Jews like Boolie and Daisy. As soon as Daisy’s obstinance wanes, she permits herself to be chauffeured, and a friendship develops between her and the brand new assist. Over the play’s 25 episodic years, Daisy lectures Hoke on his driving, suspects him of stealing, teaches him some phonics, vents her frustrations to him, and by no means asks him a lot of something about himself. Hoke largely says “Yassum” and carries on. Boolie? Atlanta Enterprise Council man of the yr! An award that Uhry appears intent on bestowing upon Boolie for displaying himself such a very good white individual by giving Hoke a good shake.
In 1988, the play received a Pulitzer, and its much-loved movie adaptation took the Greatest Image Oscar in 1989. I believe that what we’re speculated to say about “Driving Miss Daisy” is that it exhibits a significant friendship growing throughout and regardless of racial strains, that it transcends the tensions of race and sophistication that lie at its core, that Hoke teaches us all vital classes about dignity within the face of institutionalized oppression. Which will have been what the Pulitzer committee felt 30 years in the past, however that isn’t the story being advised on stage in Hoboken. There we discover the work of a myopic white playwright floundering in his efforts to inform a heat human story that transcends racial divides. “I am not prejudiced!” insists Daisy early within the play sounding very very like the mouthpiece of her playwright, reiterating later “I’ve by no means been prejudiced” in the identical breath that she effusively praises the work of Martin Luther King.
There is a line in “Hamlet” about protesting an excessive amount of.
Hoke is a personality that has attracted such luminaries as Morgan Freeman (who originated the function at Playwrights Horizons in 1987 earlier than starring within the movie) and James Earl Jones, and Stovall’s bona fides are appreciable, however the attraction is puzzling. Uhry asks little from the character apart from to contribute dutifully and servilely to the play’s extra direct curiosity in Daisy–at one level Hoke fairly actually spoon feeds Daisy. Broughton’s Daisy doesn’t evolve overmuch all through this play, however very late in life she does appear lastly to benefit from the firm of Hoke. That is one thing, I suppose. For his service Hoke will get a couple of strains asserting his dignity over the course of the play’s 90 minutes, however they’re largely drowned out by a refrain of “Yassum.”