Driving Miss Daisy, Riding With Hoke


Rebecca Hoodwin, Frank Bowman

I guess I’m an Alfred Uhry fan. I enjoyed last year’s production of his The Last Night of Ballyhoo, I’ve always liked the movie version of Driving Miss Daisy and now that I’ve seen the original play, I like it too.

If, like me, you’ve seen the Bruce Beresford-directed movie but not the play you’re in for some surprises. I was surprised to discover that the play is only one act and even more surprised to discover that there are only three characters in the play: Daisy (Rebecca Hoodwin), Hoke (Frank Bowman) and Boolie (David Edwards).

Not only do I like both the play and the movie but I’m very impressed how successfully and seamlessly Uhry expanded his play into his Oscar-winning screenplay. Although musicals frequently benefit from the broader vistas film allows straight plays sometimes don’t translate well to the big screen. Perhaps because Uhry himself did the adaptation it’s one of the most successful I’ve ever seen.

As for why this production is so successful, the answer is everything about it. I don’t believe I’ve ever been disappointed by David Edwards. He’s a talented and dependable actor and he seems to be particularly well-suited to playing avuncular Southern gentlemen (He played a character of somewhat similar demeanor in Ballyhoo.) Two years ago I hailed Rebecca Hoodwin’s Frau Schneider as “both funny and poignant” in Surflight’s Trump Plaza production of Cabaret. I can recycle that praise for this review and add that she also has a real talent for the subtle drama that Daisy demands.

I sometimes fear that I may be coming too close to the Surflighters to remain objective. For years I tried to keep them at arm’s length, seldom joining the line of fans that shake the hands of the cast in the small courtyard outside the theater after the curtain. Over the years however when you see some of the same people over and over you can’t help to feel you know them and, since they’re talented, like them. So occasionally I find myself chatting briefly with a regular like Andrew Foote or Erin Esposito. I’ve never socialized or spent any length of time with a cast member I was about to review, however, until the day I caught Daisy.

By happenstance I shared a ride home with Frank Bowman after the performance I saw. This is his first appearance at the Surflight and to my great relief he was very good as Hoke. I say to my great relief because imagine how awful it would have been to have to chat with a crummy actor you knew you were going to have to pan when you wrote your review! Bowman’s Hoke was perfect and that’s partly attributable to the fact that he’s played him a number of times already in productions around the county. In fact, he had sworn off playing Hoke but had decided to do it at least one more time. I’m glad he did. He also told me that this production was also the one that got him into Actor’s Equity, the theatrical union. AEA membership is what the asterisks next to people’s names in the cast list mean. So congratulations to Bowman on his performance and his admittance to Equity. Congratulations also to Joseph Trainor for another fine set and to Allison Bergman for her direction. I’m not just an Alfred Uhry fan; I’m a Surflight fan. And productions like Driving Miss Daisy are why.

Driving Miss Daisy played at the Surflight from October 10th through the 13th at 8pm and October 11th and 13th, 2007 at 2pm.