Community Theatre of Terre Haute continues its Mainstage Series with the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama, “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Longtime volunteer Cozette Miller is directing the play, which opens Friday with additional performances Saturday and Sunday, and again Nov. 15 through 17.
Written by Alfred Uhry and premiering in 1987, Driving Miss Daisy was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd in 1989. The play was based on the author’s own grandmother and her driver.
A stubborn, Southern Jewish woman, Daisy Werthan (Susan Monts-Bologna), does not take kindly to the idea of her son, Boolie (Peter Ciancone), who thinks his mother needs a chauffeur. Despite her protests, Boolie hires Hoke Coleburn (Robert Orr), an African-American man, to serve as her driver. In 1948 Atlanta, this was a touchy situation. The play takes place over a 25-year span of time, a period in which all the characters learn about themselves and also come to depend heavily on each other.
“The show has a lot of humor in it,” Ciancone said. “It has a very powerful social message in it. This play won a Pulitzer Prize, and it’s not a participation trophy. The characters are superbly drawn. They’re charming people with flaws.”
“Boolie is very opinionated about what Mama needs, and Mama is just as opinionated,” Monts-Bologna said. “Into this battle walks Hoke. He’s not educated, but he teaches Mama who she really is.”
Monts-Bologna and Ciancone are thankful for the opportunity to bring these characters to life. “When you have a script like this, you just jump,” Monts-Bolgna said. “It’s mind-boggling how much this author has put real people into real situations, showing the gradual learning over years and the growth of compassion.” On the rehearsal process, she added: “I don’t know that I’ve ever done a show where we’ve laughed as much as we have in this one.”
Ciancone agrees about the power of “Driving Miss Daisy.” “I didn’t know the script before this. As an actor, when a playwright gives you that much to work with, it’s like being dropped in a field of clovers. Then when you get to work with actors as talented as Susan and Bobby, it’s like a dream come true.”
In approaching this period piece, Miller wanted the three actors to effectively maneuver their characters through a society that is dealing with prejudices, class differences and the difficulties of growing old. “These are not easy themes to deal with and, in turn, portray onstage. Each actor took the time and put in the effort to develop their individual character,” she said.
To purchase tickets for “Driving Miss Daisy,” patrons can follow the links at ctth.org to pick the day, time and seat for the performance they want. Tickets can be printed out at home or shown on a mobile device.
For patrons who prefer to purchase in person, ticket office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, as well as one hour before show time. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for students and youth. Performances begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 on Sundays. The opening night includes a free reception after the performance, with a chance to mingle over hors d’oeuvres and visit with the cast members.
To see a video featuring Ciancone and Monts-Bologna discussing Driving Miss Daisy, go to YouTube.com and search for Community Theatre of Terre Haute. The video is called “DrivingMissDaisyPromotion.”
Rated PG, “Driving Miss Daisy” is performed in one act, with no intermission. Community Theatre is at 25th and Washington streets. Learn more at ctth.org or call the ticket office during open hours at 812-232-7172.