“You’re my best friend, Hoke. You are.”
Last week, beginning on Thursday, the Crane River Theater Company produced a unique, on-location performance of the popular drama, “Driving Miss Daisy.” Four performances occurred, one each day, Sept. 7-10. This event was hosted by The Classic Car Collection of Kearney, which features the vehicles present in the performance.
Thursday night’s entertainment began with a self-guided tour of the Bernie and Janice Talbourg Collection, which includes 137 vehicles the couple possess and nearly 60 vehicles on loan from other generous donors.
Before the performance, CRT Managing Director Corey Urbanek said about CRT’s latest production: “The Collection is a perfect fit. With the cars and the time period of the piece, the museum just brings that extra bit of nostalgia and fun to the experience. Plus, with the smaller audience, the actors are just inches away from the seats, offering a more immersive performance than one might see at a larger venue.”
The Kearney performance was superb. The actors, setting and special effects all came together in a nearly flawless rendition of this popular story. The three main characters, Daisy Worthen, her son Boolie Worthen and her chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn, come together in a dazzling trio, which wowed the packed audience.
The familiar story set in the Deep South in the year 1948, shortly before the civil rights movement. Wealthy Atlanta widow Daisy Werthan is determined to keep her independence as she ages. However, after crashing her car, her son, Boolie, arranges a chauffeur.
Boolie hires Hoke, a thoughtful, unemployed black man whom Miss Daisy immediately dislikes. Daisy and Hoke’s relationship gets off to a rocky start, but they gradually form a close friendship over the years, one that transcends racial prejudices and social conventions.
Portrayed by Lois Thalken, Daisy’s character is a sharp, sarcastic, Jewish lady who is quite high-strung. However, throughout the play, her character becomes mellowed out and even endearing as she, although reluctant at first, becomes best friends with Hoke.
Lorenzo Scott, the award-winning Broadway and HBO actor, took up the mantle of this deeply moving, emotionally-complex African American driver. He possesses quite the wit of his own, and the bickering between the two eventually becomes akin to that of an old married couple.
Nevertheless, the cast would be incomplete without Bryce Jensen’s take on Boolie Worthen. His sly southern drawl reminded audience members of Haymitch from The Hunger Games, but even this slight distraction could not draw away from the terrific show this trio put on.
In this unique performance with the stage and the extras placed so close to the audience, it almost felt like a silver screen debut instead of a live one.
Combine the stellar chemistry, brilliant stage and costume design and the emotionally-striking performances, and you got a wonderful night of theater.
Of course, the narrative dives right into more controversial issues, and some of the characters’ more worrisome notions, but by the end of it all, nothing can sever the bond between the two central characters. It is a friendship that lasts despite the class, race and religious differences involved. This is a story worth seeing again; it tears right into problems that are still socially relevant and it moves along faster than Miss Daisy’s first 19mph ride-along with Hoke.
Driving Miss Daisy was made popular off-Broadway in 1987, starring Dana Ivey, Morgan Freeman and Ray Gill as the characters. It was later produced by U.S. National Tours and London’s West End. Later, in 2010, the play moved to Broadway. In fact, it was the highest-grossing Broadway play in the week of Jan. 16, 2011. It was adapted into a popular 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd, which is the only off-Broadway adaptation to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture.
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