Review Roundup: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Playhouse On Park

Review Roundup: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Playhouse On ParkPlayhouse on Park presents Robert Harling's touching comedy STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Directed by Susan Haefner, STEEL MAGNOLIAS follows six women in one beauty parlor, and chronicles the joy and pain that life throws their way.

STEEL MAGNOLIAS features the talents of Jill Taylor Anthony (Truvy), Liza Couser (Annelle), Jeannie Hines (M'Lynn), Susan Slotoroff (Shelby), Dorothy Stanley (Clairee) and Peggy Cosgrave (Ouiser).

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Geary Danihy, CT Theater News and Reviews: The play is well-cast - there really isn't a false note throughout the entire evening, and kudos must go to David Alan Stern, the play's dialect coach, for these actors do sound, throughout the entire evening, as if they are truly Southern-fried. One might question the decision of scenic designer David Lewis to leave so much center-stage open space on this thrust stage. The beauty parlor chairs are set extreme stage left and right, or upstage, which often creates a visual vacuum into which the actors enter and exit. There's also a rather stunting of emotions during an emotional scene between M'Lynn and Shelby: given Haefner's blocking, the actors seem to be locked into their chairs and there's little or no eye contact between them. What's being said and the accompanying body language (or lack of same) just don't seem to mesh.

Joseph Harrison, BroadwayWorld: Each and every one of the six women on stage in Playhouse on Park's STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a gem in her own unique way. Ms. Taylor Anthony's Truvy is caring, quick with a word of advice and frequently the mother hen of the group. She makes the character her own and brings a Delta Burke-like southern charm to the role. As Annelle, Ms. Couser is awkward, yet sincerely funny throughout the play. Her character grows the most over the course of the play, going from shy, clumsy newcomer to one of the family by the end of the night. Ms. Stanley delivers some of the best moments of the night as Clairee Belcher. She acts the role of matriarch of the bunch and her comic timing is often quite brilliant, delivering some of the funniest lines of the play. Playhouse on Park regular Susan Slotoroff brings an energy and zest to the role of Shelby and as her mother, M'Lynn, Jeannie Hines delivers some of the most emotional and moving scenes of the night. Finally, as the grumpy (but loveable) Ouiser, Ms. Cosgrave is both fiery and vulnerable and gets some of the heartiest laughs from the audience.

Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant: West Hartford's Playhouse on Park, usually reliable with mainstream melodramas such as this, falters with a production that simply does not create the atmosphere and community spirit essential to this Southern-charmed script. The accents are inconsistent, the characters don't seem all that close to each other and the beauty shop environs are not convincing. The acting styles can seem worlds apart. Jill Taylor Anthony underplays as Truvy, while Peggy Cosgrave brings vaudevillian overkill to Ouiser. Somewhere in the middle are the stately Dorothy Stanley (the Broadway veteran who also happens to be a West Hartford native) as Clairee, Liza Couser as a sweetly clumsy Annelle, Susan Slotoroff as the sensitive newlywed Shelby and Jeannie Hines as a M'Lynn reeling with traumatic revelations. Hines' big monologue near the end of the play is undeniably powerful, but stylistically it emerges from nowhere. The necessary emotional groundwork has not been built by a production that seems content to glide from one smile-inducing wisecrack to the next.

Tim Leininger, Journal Inquirer: David Lewis's stage design utilizes the space of the Playhouse's stage, giving director Susan Haefner the flexibility to have the characters perform in every direction of the three-quarter round house. The performances are all good. Slotoroff and Hines have a wonderful chemistry as mother and daughter. Though Peggy Cosgrave doesn't have the same cynical sardonic wit that is presented in other performances of Ousier Boudreaux she has a great camaraderie with Dorothy Stanley as Clairee Belcher. Liza Couser rounds out the cast as Annelle Dupuy, Truvy's tenderhearted assistant. The two of them are not only the heart of the show, but they also do a fairly impressive job in doing the ladies' hair throughout the show while acting through the scenes.

Photo Courtesy of Playhouse on Park.

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From This Author Leah Windahl

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