by Jennifer Johnson, Reviewer
Directed by Kevin Lee, Magnolia Arts Center presents Steel Magnolias, a heartwarming and hilarious southern story well known on the big screen as well as the stage. The character-driven play written by Robert Harling, is full of inventive southern witticism and beauty of the human spirit. The small, all-female cast deals with issues such as family, friends, growth, love, sacrifice and illness.
Set in 1986 in a small-town Louisiana beauty parlor, Laurie Maloney plays its locally famous hairstylist, Mrs. Truvy, with a flair and a style true to her trade. The stage is decorated with vintage beautician equipment complete with wigs and feather boas “too cha cha for words” as Truvy would say. The setting is ideal for the gossiping gals that love to pry into one another’s personal lives. When young outsider, Annelle, comes into their town with a mysterious past that piques the interest of the curious ladies. Portrayed by Colleen Tetterton with charming sweetness, Annelle, a shy young lady who is at times lost but is in the process of breaking out of her shell and finding her identity is taken in by Mrs. Truvy as a beautician at her shop.
The play begins on Shelby Eatenton’s wedding day as the beauty technicians and regular customers of Truvy’s shop come in to chew the fat and get their hair done for the event. One such customer is Clairee Belcher, the well off mayor’s wife played by Cam Scales, who delivers Clairee’s sassy retorts with ease.
When the audacious Ouiser Boudreaux (Eraine Oakley) comes stomping into the shop you can tell she is a colorful character in more ways than one. She scowls like a cantankerous old bat but there is more to her than the cynical facade. Oakley’s delivery is blunt–befitting the character’s persona, with an attitude as bold as her fashion choices. She and Clairee are like two peas in a pod, bickering like sisters and teasing each other more than Annelle teases hair with her styling comb.
The true heart of the story is the mother and daughter relationship between Shelby Eatenton (Alicia Stewart) and her overbearing mother M’Lynn (Gloria Poorman). There is a figurative tug of war between the willful daughter and equally stubborn mother as they disagree about practically everything throughout the year the play follows. Stewart poignantly shows her character’s desire for what is precious in life. She wants to push her limitations no matter what the risk saying, “thirty minutes of wonderful is better than a lifetime of nothing special.” Poorman’s intense performance shows the bravery of the sacrifices a mother makes for her child’s happiness as she, surrounded by her friends who share her ups and downs and offering comfort, endures terrible suffering.
After getting to know the sassy and endearing women at Truvy’s beauty salon and watching their trials, one begins to understand what it means to be a steel magnolia: beautiful and delicate while being tough as nails.
Additional showtimes March 6,7,8,13,14,& 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Magnolia Arts Center has a new location: 1703 East 14th St., at the former Teen Center.
Purchase tickets online ($13) or at the door ($16), or call 1-888-MAC-EVNT (888-622-3868).
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