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Driving Miss Daisy review at Golden Theatre New York

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Originally premiered off-Broadway in 1987, Driving Miss Daisy won the 1988 Pulitzer prize for drama. It has subsequently become best known for the 1989 film version that starred Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan, a wealthy 72-year-old Atlanta widow and Morgan Freeman as the chauffeur that her son hires for her, against her initial resistance.

Just as she gradually yields to his charms in playwright Alred Uhry’s immensely touching portrait of the dependencies of old age, so this warm, cosy play effortlessly captures an audience’s heart, too. There may be a cloying sentimentality at the play’s own heart, but as played by Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones with a twinkling grace and quiet dignity respectively in a new production on Broadway, it becomes a vehicle for two senior actors, still at the top of their game, to both revel in and reveal hidden depths to.

Redgrave, herself now 73, may seem a little too sprightly and energetic to need any kind of home help as she vigorously prepares a cake for the oven, but she charts the character’s stern resolve that slowly crumbles with a fine, fierce conviction that has an overwhelming humanity. It is impossible, of course, to watch Redgrave without thinking of the recent terrible losses she has suffered, in turn, of her daughter Natasha and her own siblings Corin and Lynne. But Redgrave has a survivor’s spirit, and it’s that kind of indomitability that she also brings to Daisy and makes her gradual surrender even more moving.

Meanwhile Jones – recently so splendid as Big Daddy in the West End transfer of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in London – is every bit her equal, even if his character is lower on the society register. That’s one of the most telling and moving parts of the play – that these people, drawn from such disparate worlds of servant and master, should form such a bond and friendship.

Director David Esbjornson orchestrates a production that may be a little busy with moving scenery and projections, but offers two great actors a beautiful platform to practice their art, with Boyd Gaines in excellent support as Daisy’s son.

Production Information

Golden Theatre, New York, October 7-January 29

Author
Alfred Uhry
Director
David Esbjornson
Producers
Jed Bernstein, Adam Zotovich, Elizabeth Ireland McCann, Roger Berlind, Beth Kloiber, Albert Nocciolino, Jon B. Platt, StylesFour Productions, Ruth Hendel/Shawn Emamjomeh, Larry Hirschhorn/Spring Sirkin, Carl Moellenberg/Wendy Federman and Daryl Roth/Jane Berg?re; Produced in association with Michael Filerman
Cast
James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Boyd Gaines
Running time
1hr 30mins

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