Those attending a performance of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse’s current production of “Driving Miss Daisy” may recognize one or more of the actors. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Alfred Uhry, directed by the playhouse’s artistic director, MJ Bruder Munafo, features three actors who have previously appeared here a number of times.
“In this particular case, I handpicked the cast from actors that I’ve worked with before because they’re all brilliant,” says Ms. Munafo. “It’s such a tight ensemble. It’s magical when that happens.”
Rob Robinson, who at 36 takes on the role of Hoke Colburn, the African-American chauffeur of a demanding, wealthy, white woman, ages from his mid-60s to late 80s during the course of the play. With a bit of white in his hair and a very natural-looking walk, Mr. Robinson manages to transform himself into a convincing older man and also to inject his character with dignity, swagger, and more than a bit of laid-back cool.
Mr. Robinson is a New York-based actor who has performed in many off-Broadway productions and at the Kennedy Center in Washington. This is his fifth appearance at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Ms. Munafo cast him fresh out of grad school in 2006. “I think he’s one of the finest young actors I’ve ever worked with,” she says.
Among the roles Mr. Robinson has taken on at the playhouse are an African national living in Ireland (“The Blowin of Baile Gall”), a slick big city boy learning the ropes as a World War II Tuskegee recruit in “Fly,” a 19th-century sailor in “The Whaleship Essex,” and Satchel Paige in “Kansas City Swing.” His versatility does not prevent Mr. Robinson from bringing a freshness and a bit of his own personality to every role that he inhabits so masterfully.
Marc Carver, who plays Miss Daisy’s son, Boolie, hails from Providence, R.I., although his professional life takes him to New York, Boston, and other theaters nationwide. He has also appeared on TV and film — notably in “Black Mass” and the upcoming “Slender Man.”
More than 20 years ago, Mr. Carver made his Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse debut in Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles,” the first play that Ms. Munafo directed as the theater’s artistic director. “He was brilliant in that, and he’s really great as Boolie,” she says. Mr. Carver has since appeared in three additional plays here, including Yasmina Reza’s “Life x Three,” in which he played opposite his current castmate Bonnie Black.
The role of Boolie is one that Mr. Carver relishes, especially since he has only just become familiar with the story, having never seen the film. “It’s a piece like no other I ever did,” he says. “It has a real ease. [The role] just demands as much simplicity as I can provide. I find that the simpler we can keep it, the better. It’s such a beautiful story — so graceful, so full of mercy and forgiveness. It was just what my soul was begging for right now.”
Since coming to the Vineyard for his first acting gig here, Mr. Carver has returned many times for rest and relaxation. “The longer I come here, the more I just sit on the porch and hang out,” he says. “I like watching the world go by. I’m going to become one of those guys who just wave at people all day. When you’re working somewhere for a while, you start to get very comfortable and get a routine. I go to church on Sunday. Go to the Ocean View. The other actors do stuff on their time off. I do nothing.”
Bonnie Black as Miss Daisy is also finding her current role memorable. “I’ve had life experiences that have made this resonant for me,” she says. “There’s a great deal of personal experience that I bring to the role.”
Ms. Black, who lives in New York, has previously appeared in three other shows at the playhouse. In 2001, she acted opposite her husband, Richard Hoxie, in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery.”
Her theater credits include many appearances on New York stages and in regional theater. She has also done extensive work in television.
Ms. Black has a long history on the Vineyard. She and her husband eloped here many years ago, and they continue to visit at least once a year. She regularly appears in the playhouse’s “Monday Night Special” play readings. “My connection to the Island is very deep and has many tendrils,” she says.
Not only does she enjoy her time on the Vineyard, she also appreciates the reception that the play has gotten here. “We’ve had terrific audiences,” she says. “The relationship with both Rob and Marc has been great. We have ‘good music’ together.”
“I’m enjoying the hell out of it,” says Ms. Black of the experience. “It’s a trip every night. I’m very, very fortunate to be here. This is an example of the ones you live for. Everyone has been so generous and kind and hard-working. It all came together beautifully.”
Mr. Carver concurs. “It makes it so easy to tell a story when you’re working with talent like this.”
“Driving Miss Daisy” continues at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Oct. 5-7, at 7:30 pm. Visit mvplayhouse.org for tickets.