Driving Miss Daisy, Gloucester Stage Company

The Gorton Theatre, Gloucester, Mass.
September 5 – 22, 2013

By Alfred Uhry
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush

Driving Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) for the first time. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

After six days of rejection (the same time it took “the Lord to make the world”), Hoke convinces Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) to let him drive her to the Piggly Wiggly. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

As Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) tends to her husband's grave, Hoke admits to her that he can't read. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

When Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) tends to her husband’s grave and asks Hoke to place flowers on a friend’s grave, Hoke must admit to her that he can’t read. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

As Hoke, negotiating a higher salary with Boolie Werthan (Robert Pemberton) because he is being "fought over" by Boolie's cousin. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

Hoke renegotiates his salary with Boolie (Robert Pemberton) because he has a better offer from Boolie’s cousin. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

As Hoke prevents Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) from descending into madness, she reveals that he is her best friend. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

The loyal Hoke prevents Daisy (Lindsay Crouse) from descending into madness, and she reveals that he has become her best friend. (PHOTO: Gary Ng)

Critical Response

“Many theatergoers earlier in the year circled the last production of the Gloucester Stage Company’s 34th season as an event not be missed. That’s because it was GSC’s production of Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy with acclaimed actors Lindsay Crouse and Johnny Lee Davenport, whose performance in last year’s ‘MasterHarold’ at GSC was one of the theater season’s highlights.
sssssThe good news is the event we were waiting for was indeed worth waiting for.
sssss. . . Davenport has to walk a very fine line as Hoke, accommodating and friendly, deferential and respectful, but retaining his dignity and pride and never turning into a caricature.
sssss. . . Daisy also benefits from a superb job in production values . . . [t]hat allowed Crouse and Davenport to age gracefully in tandem over the quarter-century. It is also clear that nonpareil director Benny Sato Ambush — who also directed last summer’s ‘Master Harold’ at GSC — has a winning relationship with Davenport.”
—Rich  Fahey, On Boston Stages (September 9, 2013)

“But let us now praise the talents of the three actors.
ssss. . . As [Daisy’s] chauffeur, Hoke, Johnny Lee Davenport must hold back more than he might wish, since he is introduced to us as a man who has had a long spell of bad luck and unemployment. He is an imposing figure of a man, large in frame and graying at the temples, who has witnessed and been scared by racial inequalities. Yet he slowly gains more confidence to speak his mind, and learns how to turn the tide in his favor, particularly when it comes to negotiations for his livelihood.
sssssHis performance is understated and restrained, except when it needs to be otherwise. And, during the final scenes, when time has conquered (but not diminished) him, he emerges alongside Ms. Crouse as a person of compassion, an element he exhibits in snippets throughout each vignette.”
—Robert Israel, Boston EDGE (September 9, 2013)

“Gloucester Stage has taken Alfred Uhry’s Tony, Oscar, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Driving Miss Daisy, out for a spin with several of its most accomplished stars. And the results are technically impeccable—the accents and characterizations here are among the best I’ve seen recently, and clearly the production deeply touched the (all‐white) audience I saw it with on opening night.
ssssDirector [Benny Sato] Ambush  . . . has encouraged [Lindsay Crouse and Johnny Lee Davenport] to construct deeply realized individual portraits, and they basically have gone to town with the parts. Crouse proves less highly strung than most Daisies, and her decline is less precipitous; but she has a memorable imperiousness, and the gentleness beneath her gentility is in the end deeply touching. And she shares an obvious connection with Davenport, who offers a simpler, more straightforward Hoke than those raised on Morgan Freeman’s self‐aware performance in the film may expect. But he too has many superb (if consistently underplayed) moments, and both stars are supported ably by Robert Pemberton, who as the good‐ole‐boy Boolie seemed freer than I’ve ever seen him before. So in pure performance terms, this production of Uhry’s play counts as a Rolls.”
Thomas Garvey, The Hub Review (September 10, 2013)

Driving Miss Daisy, the 2013 season’s final production at Gloucester Stage, sparkles with humorous and clever dialogue while touching the heart with poignant and beautifully acted scenes.
sssss. . . Dominating the stage as chauffer Hoke Coleburn is the remarkable Johnny Lee Davenport. His performance includes humorous chatty cleverness, moments of exasperation, and times of great dignity using his remarkable vocal range during this powerful performance.”
—Sally Applegate, Cape Ann Beacon (September 10, 2013)

Driving Miss Daisy is the best production of this excellent season. . . . Academy Award nominee Lindsay Crouse . . . , Johnny Lee Davenport and Robert Pemberton . . . give stellar, riveting performances.”
—Vicky and Peter Van Ness, Good Morning Gloucester (September 10, 2013)

“Gloucester Stage audiences will remember Johnny Lee Davenport’s powerful performance as Sam in last season’s ‘Master Harold’ . . . and the boys. He brings the same strength, dignity and passion to the role of Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy.
sssss. . . In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect cast for this show than the one assembled by director Benny Sato Ambush.”
—Mark Sardella, “Columns and Essays” on Mark Sardella’s Blog (September 10, 2013)

“When was the last time you attended a straight play where the audience applauded at the end of every scene? Um, I think that would be never. Yet, that is precisely what occurred during the press opening performance of the Gloucester Stage Company production or Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Driving Miss Daisy, featuring thoughtful, intelligent direction by Benny Sato Ambush and the sublime acting talents of Lindsay Crouse, Johnny Lee Davenport, and Robert Pemberton.
sssssCrouse is a force as Daisy. . . . Even when Hoke shows up on a daily basis, she stubbornly relegates him to sit in the kitchen with her (unseen) housekeeper Idella, opting to take the trolley to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries. Davenport blends the driver’s dignity and frustration as Hoke struggles to be useful, and his glee is unabashed when Daisy finally relents and lets him take her to the store.
sssssThe pairing of these two pros is seamless. In a space as intimate as the Gloucester Stage, it is possible to observe every eye roll, sigh, and shoulder slump, and their actions and reactions are authentic across the board. Nothing is missing in their nuanced performances of two diverse characters negotiating daily life together.
sssss. . . [Crouse is] convincing in the emotional moment when the very elderly Daisy tells Hoke that he is her best friend. His one word response is “Yassum,” but Davenport‘s demeanor speaks volumes.”
—Nancy Grossman, Broadway World Boston (September 11, 2013)

“Don’t dismiss Driving Miss Daisy as the slim exercise in character studies you already know. Under the deft direction of Benny Sato Ambush, three extraordinary actors at the Gloucester Stage Company deliver delicately tuned performances that uncover depth and nuance from stock characters.
sssssJohnny Lee Davenport, Lindsay Crouse, and Robert Pemberton offer revelatory performances that draw us completely into the heart of this ‘family.’
sssss. . . The wonder of these performances comes from the actors’ absolute immersion in them. We watch in awe as Crouse’s Daisy fiercely defends her independence, panics when she has a bit of a nervous breakdown, stubbornly asserts her point of view and brooks no dissent. At the same time, Crouse elicits giggles when she exhibits Daisy’s wry humor and is absolutely radiant when Daisy recalls her first taste of saltwater as a child.
sssssDavenport matches Crouse note for note, introducing Hoke as a man willing to be subservient because he’s in need of a job. He is endlessly patient with Daisy’s demands, but when he draws a line with her behavior in two separate instances and once with Boolie, we all know he is not to be trifled with.”
—Terry Byrne, The Boston Globe (September 11, 2013)

“At last Sunday’s matinee performance of Gloucester Stage Company’s production of Driving Miss Daisy, something unprecedented occurred. The audience enthusiastically applauded after every scene, happily baffling award-winning stars Lindsay Crouse, Johnny Lee Davenport and Robert Pemberton. During the post-show discussion, Crouse . . . said she was delightedly “thrown off” by theatergoers‘ unexpected reaction to this trio’s superlative performances.
sssssCrouse, Davenport, and Pemberton share mutual admiration and affection for each other, which translates into dynamic charisma on stage. They don’t appear to be playing roles. They transition and transform into their characters, aging and changing seamlessly before our eyes.”
—Sheila Barth, Theater Mirror (September 11, 2013)

“A super­-talented three­-member cast makes this 75-­minute play a tour­ de ­force with the heart of the material always solidly up front—and in a theater like GSC the audience can feel the characters’ loneliness and their struggles.
sssss. . . Johnny Lee Davenport’s Hoke plays a typical 1948 Southern Negro to the hilt as the play begins, then gradually lets his humanity emerge as he cajoles Miss Daisy, then stands up to her and finally refuses to let her drift away.”
—Jack Butterworth, The Daily Item (September 13. 2013)

“Amazing how three actors can carry an entire show so well!”
Anne Noyes, Goldstar (September 13, 2013)

“This season’s program at the Gloucester Stage was the best. Driving Miss Daisy topped off a perfect season. The cast of three captured a time in America of racial unrest. Miss Daisy and Hoke Colburn wrestle with an up-and-down relationship but in the end become best of friends. Don’t miss the best performances of the summer and maybe year of Lindsay Crouse, Johnny Lee Davenport and Robert Pemberton.”
—Lois Jacob, Goldstar (September 14, 2013)

“Acting was fabulous.”
Monica Congdon, Goldstar (September 14, 2013)

“Daisy is played by the talented Lindsay Crouse (best known for her film and television work), and there’s nothing ‘cute’ or sentimental about Crouse’s character. So if you’re anticipating a schmaltzy story, forget it. She plays Daisy as a steely woman who initially believes that Hoke truly is beneath her, despite her protestations that she is ‘not prejudiced.’ This helps her to maintain a sense of order in her rapidly changing life, where the ‘coloreds’ know their place. And Hoke (in a great performance by Johnny Lee Davenport) does ‘know his place’. This is 1948 America in the South, and he is grateful to have a job—especially given his advancing age. He also has had a lot of practice keeping his mouth shut, except when he innocently gives his thoughts on ‘the Jews’ to his potential employer (to great comic effect) thus revealing his own prejudice. But it is difficult for anyone to maintain a prejudicial attitude with enough close contact with a fellow human being, particularly one as good­natured and thoughtful as Hoke. The relationship inevitably thaws and it is a joy to watch it unfold.”
Mike Hoban, Events Insider (September 16, 2013)

“Rush to see Driving Miss Daisy . . . , a sublime production of Alfred Uhry’s tender chamber piece built on two characters in the Deep South on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement through the early 70′s.
sssssLindsay Crouse is feisty and funny, proud and vulnerable. Johnny Lee Davenport as Hoke is confident, gentle, and wise enough to take Miss Daisy’s reservations in stride. All of the performances are marked by an easy authenticity; by the time the last scene rolls around, Miss Daisy and Hoke share a bench and a slice of pie, and we see they’ve arrived at the same place, at the same time, with each other—and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m gonna cry. DO NOT MISS THIS.”
Joyce Kulhawik, Joyce’s Choices (September 18, 2013)

“Oscar nominee Lindsay Crouse is taking the ride of a lifetime in the Gloucester Stage Company production of Driving Miss Daisy, where she’ll strike up an unlikely friendship with stage and screen vet Johnny Lee Davenport (The Fugitive) as loyal chauffeur Hoke. Directed by Benny Sato Ambush, the touching production features Robert Pemberton as Daisy’s son Boolie. Alfred Uhry’s iconic 1987 drama, playing through September 22, is worth the trip!”
Lindsay Champion, Broadway.com: “Cross-Country Highlights” (September 18, 2013)

“There’s a fine line between heartwarming and maudlin, and [Benny Sato] Ambush and the stellar cast of his Cadillac-­caliber Driving Miss Daisy revival know the difference.
sssss. . . Crouse as Daisy and Johnny Lee Davenport as Hoke are totally convincing moving from early tension and turmoil to ultimate dialogue and caring as soul mates. Crouse artfully captures Daisy’s steely demeanor in her initial stand­off with Hoke and the effects of aging on her independence. Davenport has Hoke’s expansive personality as well as his inner nobility in a beautifully modulated performance. Their exchanges about the bombing of Daisy’s temple by unnamed bigots (clearly white racists such as the KKK) are a hauntingly powerful highlight.”
Jules Becker, Worcester Telegram (September 19, 2013)

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