The Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Driving Miss Daisy" pulls in to ProArts Playhouse this weekend. Following a lighthearted season of musicals and children's shows, ProArts' first grown-up drama delivers humor with a bite, exploring race dynamics in America, mother and son relationships, and the difficulties of growing old.
"It tells the story of a relationship between a stubborn, Southern, Jewish woman and her chauffeur, who is an equally stubborn black man," said producer Doug Kendrick in a recent interview. "The third character in the mix is the old woman's son, Boolie, a successful businessman who convinces his mother that she is too old to drive herself and hires the chauffeur."
The story follows the evolution of the relationships among the three characters over the course of 25 years. Miss Daisy and Hoke Coleburn, her driver, "go from full-on animosity and dislike for each other to a more respectful understanding of each other's differences," said Kendrick.
J. Marc Mance as Hoke Coleburn (from left), Joyce Romero as Daisy Werthan, and Kevin Hazelton as Boolie Werthan take a ride in what could be Maui’s first 100-percent electric car, the Nissan Leaf, owned by co-producer Doug Kendrick. “Driving Miss Daisy” opens Friday at ProArts in Kihei.
The show is funny and relateable with plenty of layers to uncover. "I've watched this show through a couple of dozen rehearsals and I get something different out of it every time I see it," Kendrick said. "This piece is so wonderfully written. It holds the audience. The characters are written so sincerely, so well, so completely. It's very easy to stay connected."
Kendrick and director Jonathan Lehman are excited by the small but talented cast they have assembled. "We thought this was particularly well-suited to the theater and well-suited to the talent on Maui," said Kenrick. "We're just thrilled with the talent we have. The actors and actresses are fantastic."
The three members of the cast, Joyce Romero, J. Marc Mance and Kevin Hazelton, are all new to the ProArts stage. "That's one thing I like about ProArts is that we're not using the same talent over and over again," said Kendrick. "We generally cast whoever walks in the door who we think is best for the part."
Although Lehman is the director for "Driving Miss Daisy" and Kendrick the producer, the two usually work together to create each show. "It's a team effort," said Kendrick. "And with talent that's as well-suited for these roles as these actors are, our job is really just to get out of their way and let them do their thing."
The play is set from 1950 to 1970, but on opening night, Miss Daisy might be driving a distinctly more modern vehicle. Kendrick owns what may be the first all-electric car on Maui, a silver Nissan Leaf he purchased from an Oahu dealer last week. "We had thought about trying to get the classic car club to loan us a car before the opening of 'Miss Daisy,' but we've had some trouble making those connections," said Kendrick. "So Miss Daisy may be in a modern electric vehicle for the opening."
The car has zero emissions and runs silently on an electric battery. "You get a plug-in in the garage and it takes four to six hours for a full battery charge, and then it's good for a hundred miles," said Kendrick. "So with my solar panel, I'm running my car off the sun."
"Driving Miss Daisy" is not only a chance to see an award-winning play with a talented local cast, but also to find out more about alternative energy. "I'm happy to talk with anyone wants to know about electric cars or photovoltaics or the tax implications of both those things," said Kendrick. "I'm available at the box office every night. Come see 'Miss Daisy' and we can talk electrics cars and photovoltaics all you want!"
* "Driving Miss Daisy" shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, starting this Friday through April 10 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. There will be no performance March 27. Thursday nights are kamaaina nights with reduced rates of $15 for Hawaii residents. Reserved seat tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under.
"Cats": Don't miss the final weekend of Maui OnStage's popular production of "Cats." Andrew Lloyd Webber's production revolutionized musical theater when it opened in London in 1981 and then in the U.S. in 1982. Based on T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," and with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Cats" won seven 1983 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Lighting and Best Costumes. Due to its popularity, the 3 p.m. Sunday matinee at the Historic Iao Theater is already sold out. Catch these creatures while you can.
* "Cats" will take the stage for its final weekend at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets are $40 for preferred seating, $20 for general admission and $18 for seniors and students. Call 242-6969 or visit mauionstage.com.
"Theophilus North": Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents the Hawaii premiere of "Theophilus North." This quirky and compelling play written by Matthew Burnett is based on Thornton Wilder's novel of the same name. It is the story of a bright young man with lofty ambitions named Theophilus North, who decides to embark on a quest for fun and adventure, but doesn't get very far. His Model T breaks down in elegant Newport, R.I. Working odd jobs for the wealthy, he inadvertently changes the lives of everyone he meets and ends up a changed man himself. Producing a relatively unknown play is always a risk, but once he read the script for "Theophilus North," executive and artistic director David C. Johnston said he knew producing this play was a risk worth taking. "It's a play you don't know about people you do. There's a delicacy to this piece that's beautiful and infectious. It speaks to us."
* "Theophilus North" plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, starting April 1 through 17, at Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
Aszure Barton & Artists: Brazen, fearless, tough and sexy, Aszure Barton is an exciting new voice in contemporary dance. She has been commissioned to choreograph new works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Fang-Yi Sheu, Sydney Dance Company, the Juilliard School, Les Ballets Jazz de Montral, Martha Graham Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre II and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, among others. From her eclectic musical choices (ranging from French Canadian folk to Vivaldi) to the casual and conversational tone of her original, funky dance vocabulary, Barton's movement is like nothing you've seen.
* Aszure Barton & Artists perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at the Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $25 and $32. Call 242-7469 or visit MauiArts.org for tickets.
Kathy Griffin at the MACC: Celebrity blunders and Tinseltown gossip are fuel for Kathy Griffin's hilarious sketches that have kept audiences laughing for years. A portion of the proceeds from her MACC show will benefit Women Helping Women Maui. Special packages are available for the 14th annual Women Helping Women's afternoon tea "Eat Pray Love Laugh" in Yokouchi Pavilion with tickets to see the award-winning comedian.
* Kathy Griffin performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10,? at the Castle Theater. Tickets are $36, $46 and $56. Call 242-7469 or visit MauiArts.org for tickets.