REVIEW: Clemson Little Theatre Grows a Delightful ‘Daisy’

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The cast of “Driving Miss Daisy” at Clemson Little Theatre/Pendleton Playhouse.

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

The Clemson Little Theatre/Pendleton Playhouse ends its season on cloud nine with the box office and artistic success “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Frequent Clemson director Jimmy O. Burdette presents a warm and delightful production that embodies a solid and heartfelt display of storytelling, from its committed professional-grade cast to the vibrant sound and technical prowess and astute scenic work.

In this poignant character study by Frank Uhry that traverses complex themes such as aging, racial strife and friendship, Pat Schull plays Daisy Werthan, a Jewish widow in Atlanta who, after crashing her car, has been stripped of her driving privileges by her adult son Boolie (an engaging, even keeled Jeff Land).

Boolie hires African-American local Hoke Coleburn (Paul Elston) as her driver. And though she resents the loss of her independence by resisting a ride to the Piggly Wiggly for nearly a week, the irascible and stubborn Daisy eventually warms to Hoke.

The play spans some 25 years and follows the trio from the post-war years (1948) to the civil rights movement and Vietnam War in 1973, as designated by the production’s astute video projections and titles.

In both crisis and joy, Schull and Elston dig their heels into these meaty roles, mining for maximum emotional depth and landing the many memorable one-liners, mostly by Daisy herself at the expense of  Boolie’s offstage Yankee social-climber wife. And Elston, who has played this role before, does Morgan Freeman (co-star of the film version) better than Freeman himself. Bravo!

Land’s Boolie, who owns the family printing business, is impossible not to like. With a subtle and offbeat charm to his steadiness, he works wonders assuming the position of referee during the drama.

The scenic design (the triad of the parlor, a car, and Boolie’s office) is sharp and clean. The apropos and ever-so-delicate underscoring and transition music handpicked by Burdette and Warren Ashmore richly permeate nearly every scene, accentuating the proper mood but never distracting.

Linda Lavold is producer, Arielle Brooks is Stage Manager and Technical Director is Cary Doyle. Lighting design is by Burdette, Doyle and Wayne Madison and set design/construction by Burdette, Scott Voorhees, Mike Morehead and Jim Harris.

 “Driving Miss Daisy” has closed unfortunately but the company has just announced their next exciting season:

“Keep on the Sunny Side,” a biographic musical about the Carter Family, also directed by Burdette, opens the Clemson Little Theatre/Pendleton Playhouse 2018-19 season on Sept. 7-16.

“Peter Pan, Jr.” is the first youth production Oct. 19-28, flowed by “A Suessified Christmas Carol” on Nov. 30- Dec. 9.

The Jones Wooten Hope comedy “Doublewide, Texas” runs Jan. 25-Feb. 3, 2019.

The classic “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” will be the second show in the youth programming on March 15-24.

And the sketch-comedy musical “Rated P for Parenthood” closes out the season on May 3-12, 2019

The Clemson Little Theatre/Pendleton Playhouse is located at 214 S Mechanic St. in Pendleton, SC.  Call the box office at (864) 646-8100 or visit www.clemsonlittletheatre.com/.

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