BWW Reviews: STEEL MAGNOLIAS Bloom at Stagebrush Theatre

June 9
1:32 PM 2014
BWW Reviews: STEEL MAGNOLIAS Bloom at Stagebrush Theatre

Steel Magnolias is at heart a play about beauty, not the cosmetic kind that stylists manufacture with gels and lotions and sprays but the kind that tells in the truth lines on a woman's face, in the soul that she bares in private and safe moments with friends. The telling of the tale requires skilled and authentic performances by actresses that can reveal the shades and textures of joy and pain and faith and the will to endure no matter what hand life deals. In Stagebrush Theatre's current production of Robert Harling's play, directed by Judy Rollings, six remarkable actresses grace the stage and deliver the goods.

It's a welcome play that can bring together such accomplished talents as Maureen Dias, Laura Durant, Patti Davis Suarez, and Jodie Weiss. The newcomers, Jamie Sandomire and Ashley Faulkner, shine in their midst. Where the play may falter at times in its pacing, their performances keep the audience riveted to the unfolding drama of Shelby and her mother M'Lynn.

Truvy's Beauty Parlor is the safe harbor to which these women of Chinquapin Parish can retreat, find respite from the outside world and the men who inhabit their lives, let their hair down while they get their dos, share their secrets, and bear witness to the consequences of their personal choices.

Shelby's choice is to have a baby despite the doctor's orders, her mother's admonitions, and the risk to her own well-being. The play revolves around her three-year odyssey from newlywed to new mother, and Truvy's customers bear witness to the trial and tribulation of her journey.

Weiss is classy and aptly polished as Truvy, the business-savvy owner of the salon that bears her name. Durant is brilliant as the sassy Clairee, punching out pithy bullets of sarcasm with expert timing and affect. Patti Davis Suarez storms on to the stage and commands it as Ouiser, the feisty next door neighbor who has zero tolerance for intrusions on her property. Jamie Sandomire's Shelby is alive with hope and determination and the will to face down her mother's protectiveness. Ashley Faulkner convincingly portrays the naiveté and vulnerability of Annelle, Trudy's new hire.

It is Maureen Dias who surprises and moves the audience to its emotional breaking point. As M'Lynn, she remains stoic throughout the play, a silent witness to her daughter's tenacity, yielding all too quickly to Shelby's decisions despite her better judgment. Dias's choice is a smart one, because the moment that she creates at play's end is all the more powerful and memorable.

Truvy declares, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." It will be yours as well at the end of this production.


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Herbert Paine Herb Paine is President of Paine Consulting Services, now in its twenty-sixth year of operation, specializing in organizational development, strategic planning, turnaround management, mergers, and governance. He is a nationally recognized expert on all aspects of nonprofit organization management and has consulted extensively with arts and cultural organizations on strategic positioning and branding. For more, visit

His social and political commentaries are aired monthly on KJZZ/91.5 FM, NPR’s Phoenix affiliate. Herb’s most recent acting credits include roles as Sgt. Jeff Pugliese in the National Geographic Channel’s April 2014 docudrama "Inside the Hunt for the Boston Bombers;" the King of France/Chaudron the forger/Ser Piero, DaVinci's father in Theater Works' "Finding Mona Lisa;" Inspector LeStrade in Fountain Hills Theater’s "Sherlock’s Last Case;" and Berry Bernard in the short film "Living Will."

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