Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

The World in a Matchbox

The Elegant Simplicity of Driving Miss Daisy

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Seeing three shows a week, I often tend to forget the sheer joy of the most basic elements of theatre. C. Michael Wright hands you a tiny matchbox. Slide it open and there’s a couple decades’ worth of history, an allegory between two people, the story of race relations in the mid twentieth century south, the difficulty with aging and . . . well . . . quite a few other things. Wright (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Producing Artistic Director) and Scenic Designer Steve Barnes have performed a kind of surgical poetry on what is a remarkably concise script. As casually remarkable a story as it is, Driving Miss Daisy could really fall flat on the stage, but Wright and Barnes have worked to focus the action with a shrewd sense of economy that highlights the depth of it all without losing sight of the overall fluidity of the composition of the piece.

The cast takes a final bow, files out. Less than two hours have passed and 25 years have passed. One might expect the whole thing to feel rushed or impossibly dense to have packed that much time away. And while it’s remarkable that it doesn’t feel at all rushed, the iconic moments in a relationship between two people that play out over the course of a quarter century feel pleasantly earthbound and THAT is the real accomplishment here. Without any blindingly obvious cues that time is passing (and it does pass really quickly, especially towards the end) it’s surprising that it all didn’t feel more artificial.

And none of this is real central to the characters or the people playing them. Ruth Schudson spent a great deal of time with Daisy and there’s little question that everyone here worked just as tirelessly on this one, but in a production like this, the basic elements feel casually stunning if you stop and think about them.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Driving Miss Daisy runs through October 30th at the Broadway theatre Center. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800. A reasonably less dazed review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express

 

 

 

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