Sometimes it easy to think that the problems our society faces are anything but solvable. Given the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past Friday, for example, fearing gun violence will be forever with us weighs heavily. And, while the American political process must confront, in an active and resolute manner, the multiple causes of such atrocities (everything from gun availability and a shrinking safety net for the mentally ill to an increasingly fractured and isolated population), real and powerful change can also happen on the personal level.
That, in essence, is the story and power of Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy, at Playhouse on Park, through December 23. A good, but prejudiced, Southern woman (played by Waltrudis Buck) develops a respect and friendship (and perhaps even a love) for the African American driver (Marvin Bell) hired for her by her son (Bristol Pomeroy), when her driving skills deteriorate to an unsafe level. Set in relief against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, this small show focuses completely on the complicated human interactions of the three characters, as they negotiate the private and public spaces they inhabit.
The swiftly spaced show, deftly directed by Stevie Zimmerman without an intermission, is a series of fairly short, but powerful, scenes that allow the actors plenty of room to make the audience feel the conflicted emotions that arise at any given moment from the simplest of words, actions, and reactions.
As is so often the case at POP, the cast is marvelous. Mr. Pomeroy's Boolie captures the love, worry, and frustration that the adult child of an aging parent inevitably feels over time. Ms. Buck makes Daisy’s slow and difficult escape from years of prejudiced thought (or should I say thoughtless-ness?) a journey that we can understand and fully sympathize with. And it’s just a joy to watch Mr. Bell’s Hoke Colburn almost simultaneously seethe and smile – as he pities, angers, and learns from his passenger-turned-friend.
It’s a finely crafted small show, with a big heart and an even bigger message: We all can be changed and change the world one person at a time; all we have to do is give ourselves the chance to recognize that we’re on this trip together.