Does the idea of seeing a one-woman play seem intimidating? Left in the wrong hands, a one-person show could be tortuous, but fortunately for Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, the opposite is true. Smart, funny and uplifting all describe Ed Howard’s play, but those words also characterize Veronika Duerr’s performance as Daisy Fay.
Based on Fannie Flagg’s novel of the same name, the play is set in 1958 Hattiesburg, Miss., and it focuses on Daisy Fay’s experience as a Miss Mississippi pageant contestant. Told through a series of vignettes in a speech to an imaginary audience, the play introduces a variety of colorful characters. From tales about her father and the schemes of her best friend Pickle to her budding career as actress at a community theater, her stories weave a journey that leaves no emotion untouched.
Taking place at the beginning of the summer, the first act introduces the wistful, chipped-toothed Daisy Fay as she’s packing for the Miss Mississippi pageant and telling the audience stories of her life. The story of her riding a runaway mule past an army convoy down Highway 31 delivers a handful of laughs.
Another story describes her father’s friend Jimmy Snow as he, Daisy Fay and her father stage a tent revival, where they sell stolen church fans with forged autographs of Daniel, David, Goliath and other prominent Biblical figures. During this episode Jimmy becomes the “Miracle Man” as they try to heal the sick. Each story builds to the reason why Daisy Fay is telling her stories and why there is a deeper meaning to Jimmy’s title.
Act two finds Daisy Fay returning home after the pageant. She again finds her imaginary audience and among her many stories, she recounts the reunion with her nemesis from act one, the snooty Kay Bob Benson whose face is that of Little Miss Sunbeam on the bread package. While both are at the pageant, she explains how Kay’s baton twirling act goes haywire, allowing Daisy Fay to feel as if justice has been served. Again, the humor drives the story along to a satisfying conclusion.
Howard’s witty script provides fertile ground for Duerr to explore the character. As sharply written as Flagg’s novel, the play’s dialogue moves quickly and takes the audience along an emotionally cathartic journey with Daisy Fay. Although he doesn’t include everything Flagg’s novel covers, Howard has chosen the perfect selection of events to create an enjoyable, moving play.
As Daisy Fay, Duerr shines, making it hard to imagine anyone else in the role; she is Daisy Fay. Based on last season’s Becky Shaw at Actor’s Express, there’s no doubt about her comedic talents, but this play showcases a depth of talent that is phenomenal. Duerr has the ability to grab the audience members and make each of them experience the journey with her. Through a variety of accents and mannerisms, she has the audience roaring in laughter, and with tearful conviction, she brings the audience in closer for the more personal, emotional scenes.
After transporting the audience into laughter with her hilariously told stories of the pageant, Duerr delivers the most touching scene in the play. The emotion she exudes spreads across the audience for an intimate moment that made each individual feel as though he/she and Daisy Fay where alone in the room having a conversation. This type of connection is hard to accomplish with any production, but Duerr manages to pull off this feat.
One of the best plays performed in Atlanta this fall, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man shouldn’t be missed. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a performance with more warmth and conviction than Duerr’s Daisy Fay. The play runs through September 17 on select nights at Actor’s Express. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.actors-express.com/ or call 404-607-SHOW.
– A. Wesley