Feb. 4 2009 12:00 AM

Carmen Decker wows as Miss Daisy in BoarsHead show


Let’s just get this out of the way: everything about BoarsHead Theater’s production of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer-winning play, “Driving Miss Daisy,” is perfectly fine. On stage, James Bowen and Bruce Bennett are just fine in their respective roles of Hoke Coleburn and Boolie Werthan. Donald Robert Fox’s set design is fine. Holly Spears costumes are fine. And, Karen Doyle’s direction is, also, fine.

If you don’t know by now, and you should, this delightful play is about Miss Daisy, a vintaged Jewish widow (Carmen Decker) forced by her son, Boolie, to surrender her car keys to black chauffeur/chaperon Hoke in pre-civil rights Atlanta. What ensues is her struggling reluctance to accept all facets of change. The story is told with warmth, poignancy, tenderness, familiarity and, most of all, humor. It’s a fine story.

What isn’t just fine about this production, but overwhelmingly transcendent, is Decker’s performance as Miss Daisy.

All too frequently, whether it’s self proclaimed or otherwise attributed, the meritorious epithet “artist” is immoderately applied to actors in general. That aggrandizement is roughly equivalent to calling an organ grinder a virtuoso. It is rare indeed to see a genuine artist on our local stages, and when that opportunity presents itself, it should not be missed. Decker is a true artist, and her talent is on glorified exhibit in “Driving Miss Daisy.”

While most of our local actors unremittingly display themselves at each of Lansing’s community theaters, thus obliterating any distinctive identity for any of them, Decker continues to appear exclusively at BoarsHead. Her judicious selectivity places BoarsHead, Decker and the audience in a favorably unique position. If you wish to witness true stage artistry, you know where and when to show up.

Now would be such a time, because in “Miss Daisy,” Decker’s artistry is in full bloom. She listens to every word spoken to her. Her timing is impeccable. She supports every line with the appropriate action. She makes fresh and fearless choices and then commits to them without hesitation. She delivers each line — inflections, emphases and all — flawlessly. Her entire performance is an organic creation; She doesn’t so much act as become.

Toward the end of this 90-minute gem, Miss Daisy’s son says to her, “You look fine.” Daisy/Decker’s reply is, “It’s my ageless appeal.”

She couldn’t be more right. It is the “appeal” of a great artist and you owe it to yourself to see it and cherish it.

Driving Miss Daisy

Through Feb. 15 7 p.m. Wednesday & Thursday 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday 2 p.m. Sunday BoarsHead Theater, 425 S. Grand Ave., Lansing $12-$30 (517) 484-7805 www.boarshead.org