Driving Miss Daisy

James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Boyd Gaines

Golden Theatre;  February 22, 2011

I cannot imagine a better revival than this play.  A good play to begin with;  nice combination of humor and pathos.  Now take James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, toss in Boyd Gaines for good measure, and good becomes crackerjack.

Miss Daisy is getting to be too old to drive, a fact she won’t admit, nor will she admit that she is rich.

Suspicious of Hoke, played by Jones, whom her son has hired over her strenuous objections, she looks for ways to discredit him.  The closest she comes is finding a salmon can in the trash, which Hoke did in fact borrow.  Unbeknownst to Miss Daisy, however, he replaced it.  At first she won’t even ride in the car with him;  she’d rather take the bus.  Eventually he prevails upon her and once the ice is broken they begin to get closer.

Boyd Gaines is fine as the son and he would probably shine in the role as he has in Gypsy and lots of other plays, but a solid rule of the theatre:  if you are on stage with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave it is not you who will shine, no matter that you have won five Tony awards, which Boyd Gaines has.

By the end of the play, Hoke and Miss Daisy are close companions.  Playwright Alfred Uhry makes a poignant statement about bigotry.  When Miss Daisy’s temple is bombed and she can’t imagine anyone doing such a thing to a reformed synagogue, Hoke, who knows racism only too well, educates her:  “A jew’s a jew to them people,” he says.  “Just like light or dark, we’re all the same nigger.”

Ultimately as Daisy loses her keenness of mind, Hoke stands by her.  When He and her son come to the sanitarium for a visit, she brushes off her son, smiles at Hoke, and says:  “Hoke, you are my best friend.”

Three words sum up this entire play and performances:  Go see it.