Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

One of the Coachella Valley’s most honored theatres, The Groves Cabin Theatre of Morongo Valley, launched their 2015/2016 Season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning heartwarming comedy “Driving Miss Daisy” written by multiple Tony and Academy Award winner Alfred Uhry.

Dave Jessup as Boolie Werthan.
Dave Jessup as Boolie Werthan.

Tenderly directed by award-winning director Rebecca Havely, “Driving Miss Daisy” addresses issues that cross lines of class and race in a warmhearted, humorous, affecting manner back in the 20th century.

The story set in 1948 Atlanta, Georgia chronicles the unlikely relationship between a grumpy, white, Southern, Jewish lady Daisy Werthan (Joy Groves) and Hoke Colburn (Horace Miller) a black chauffeur hired by Daisy’s son Boolie (Dave Jessup) to drive her whenever she needs to go out and about in Atlanta.

The prickly and independent 72 year-old widow is reluctant to accept the fact that she needs Hoke, a dignified and good-natured unemployed black man to assist her. Boolie, counsels Hoke that although his mother is crotchety, and strong-minded, he shouldn’t have a problem if he is patient and gentle, but firm with her, as she is used to getting her own way.

Directed by Rebecca Havely, the cast features Joy Groves as Daisy Werthan, Horace Miller as Hoke Colburn, and Dave Jessup as Boolie Werthan.
Directed by Rebecca Havely, the cast features Joy Groves as Daisy Werthan, Horace Miller as Hoke Colburn, and Dave Jessup as Boolie Werthan.

Over the twenty-five year span of the story -1948 to 1998 – Jim Crow Laws (1890 – 1965) of the south dictated southern social behavior. Hollywood screen writers and theatre playwrights have been at the forefront of producing art that shines a light on these issues. Recent movies like “The Help” brought into sharp focus the immorality and folly of a ‘separate but equal’ America.

In Uhry’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ story, director Havely nicely captures the nuances of a changing America when it comes to race and humanity. Havely orchestrates the performances of Daisy and Hoke where the two characters continue to grow closer in their friendship over the years to the point that one might almost say they could be considered ‘a couple’.

Dave Jessup offers nice support as Boolie, Daisy’s son. But the real standouts are Horace Miller as Hoke and Joy Groves as Miss Daisy. Miller could benefit more if he keeps the pacing going between his lines. Hoke is a warm and winning character as created by Uhry and as seen through Havely’s lens, but everyone has to be onboard the same vehicle when it comes to the narrative and timing. Let’s just chalk it up to opening night jitters the night I attended when it comes to the pacing.

Joy Groves as Daisy Werthan, Horace Miller as Hoke Colburn
Joy Groves as Daisy Werthan, Horace Miller as Hoke Colburn

Which brings us to Miss Daisy herself. Joy Groves is an absolute delight and gives one of the most memorable performances of her long and distinguished career in the Coachella Valley and hi-desert. And that is saying something. She is one of the Desert Theatre League’s (DTL) most honored performers. She literally becomes Miss Daisy. We see all of the tics, idiosyncrasies, crankiness, as well as, her good qualities and intentions that basically all good people possess. The final mesmerizing scene between Daisy and Hoke, when she is 97, is a sublime theatrical moment. If you don’t feel the palpable emotion from the audience, well you better check yourself into a hospital because your heart must have stopped beating some time ago.

Tickets to this stellar production will be hard to obtain. With just 22 seats reservations are a must. Call the box office at 76-365-4523.

‘Driving Miss Daisy’ will perform on Saturdays at 7 pm and on Sundays at 2:30 pm. There will be no performance on Saturday October 17th. There will, however, be three Friday performances: Friday, Sept. 25th, Friday, October 2nd and Friday, October 9th. All Friday performances are at 7 pm.

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