Frisco Community Theatre
Directed by – Evelyn Davis
Costume Design – Deborah Jaskolka
Lighting Design – Alex Ammons
Music Design – Matthew Crawley
Sound Effects – John Rodgers
Props Design – Carol Payne
Stage Manager – Katie Radke
Fradonna Griffin – Daisy Werthan
Shane Beeson – Boolie Werthan
Jerry Barrax – Hoke Coleburn
Reviewed Performance 8/5/2016
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Alfred Uhry’s popular drama about a wealthy Southern Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur has been performed in countless theatres across the United States since it debuted on the theatre scene in the late 1980s. The original Off-Broadway production was staged at Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre on 42nd Street, opening on April 15, 1987, and starring Dana Ivey, Morgan Freeman, and Ray Gill. It later transferred to the John Houseman Theatre, closing on June 3, 1990, with 1,195 performances. Mr. Freeman reprised his role as Hoke for the 1989 Academy Award winning film.
Mr. Uhry received the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play, and it’s easy to see why. As part of his “Atlanta Trilogy,” based on his own experiences as a Jew living in Atlanta, he has woven an entertaining history lesson into this simple story of family and friendship.
At Frisco Community Theatre, director Evelyn Davis has put together a fabulous cast for their production of Driving Miss Daisy. Fradonna Griffin is spot on as the often cantankerous and difficult Daisy Werthan. She plays the opinionated, grumpy Daisy perfectly, and we get to see her soften and grow throughout the play as she learns to appreciate Hoke and all he does for her. Really a fine performance.
Jerry Barrax complements Ms. Griffin beautifully, as Hoke deals with her stubbornness and insults with aplomb. Even as the two become friends, he is able to manage an air of aloofness as Miss Daisy’s employee while still growing fond of her. The easy relationship Daisy and Hoke have by the end of the play is skillfully yet subtly portrayed, and it’s touching and very sweet to watch.
As Daisy’s son Boolie Werthan, Shane Beeson gets to play much of the comic relief in the show, and he does so brilliantly. His vocal expression hits all the right notes to get laughs, and his facial expressions are flawless. Mr. Beeson also knows when to bring it in, and he has some nice, poignant moments as well.
This cast really does some amazing work. It’s too bad the technical side of the show doesn’t match them. There is no set designer mentioned in the program, and while I love the simplicity and sparseness of the furniture, Alex Ammons’ lighting doesn’t quite fill the spaces enough, so any major movement leaves the actors’ faces in shadow on the edges of the acting space.
In addition, the use of video projections really misses the mark. For one thing, the wall things are being projected onto is uneven, making it look weird to start with. Then the picture quality between the photos and video being used is also uneven, the video looping is off, and sometimes the projection doesn’t come on when it should, so the projections just end up being more distracting than anything. Projections often feel like an apology for lack of set, and this is a prime example of that. The show is solid without the projections and would, in my opinion, be better without them.
While Matthew Crawley’s musical choices are very good, moving the story along and letting us know the period, John Rodgers’ sound effects, like the video, are uneven. Sometimes there are sound effects as they get into the car and start it, and sometimes there aren’t. What’s there is good, but it isn’t consistent.
On the other hand, Deborah Jaskolka’s costume designs are wonderful! Ms. Griffin is perfectly attired throughout – and it’s not an easy to task to cover 25 years from 1948 to 1973. A few of the choices for Mr. Beeson don’t fit him quite as well as they could, but overall, he looks the part of a rich Atlanta businessman quite nicely, and Mr. Barrax’s simple costumes are just right for Hoke.
I also must mention Carol Payne’s excellent job at propping this show. Rotary dial phones are also not easy to come by these days, and the new looking period suitcases are just perfect. Kudos on finding those!
I remember seeing the movie version of Driving Miss Daisy shortly after it came out all those years ago, but I think this may well be the first time I’ve seen the play, and I’m glad I got to see such a good production. If you’ve only seen the film, treat yourself to this show. If you haven’t seen the film, come see the play instead! FCT has put together a solid production, so come laugh, be moved, and enjoy this historically based story of friendship.
DRIVING MISS DAISY
Frisco Community Theatre
Black Box Theater in the Frisco Discover Center
8004 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200, Frisco, TX 75034
Runs through August 21
Actual days: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm, with an additional performance on Saturday, August 20 at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $12-20
For info and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.friscocommunitytheatre.com/
or call the box office at 972-370-2266.