BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS: Bonds in a Salon at Beef & Boards
STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a much beloved play and film full of the charms of the South and the wit and resilience of the women who inhabit it. It has so many timeless themes, like the bonds of womanhood, the trials of courtship, the anxieties of motherhood and aging. What makes it such an enduring presence on the stage is the way these themes interweave to create peaks of humor and valleys of tragedy that ultimately show a beauty salon is more than a place to beautify. It is a place to forge friendships that are there to catch you when you fall.
Before I even delve into the acting, I have to applaud the set design. The entire play takes place inside Truvy's beauty salon (Deb Wims), and it had a functionality that surprised me. The dialogue clearly calls for someone to get their hair washed, and I expected some kind of clever miming or a quick wrap-up in a towel to imply wet hair. What I saw instead was running water on stage. It may seem like a small detail, but bits like that draw you into the story in a much more tangible way. There was also a fair amount of hairstyling done. It wasn't anything extravagant, but it wasn't so wishy-washy that you were drawn out of the conceit that this was a true salon. I also appreciated the small items that channeled the 80's, like the use of some neon posters and other décor. Michael Layton did very well with his scenic design.
This cast was made up of women who clearly wanted to honor the roles they played with excellent performances. It wasn't hard to see the work they'd put into making their relationships believable so that the audience understood what these women mean to each other.
One standout on the stage was Morgan Jackson as Annelle Dupuy, the shy and uncertain new girl who comes to Truvy's. She had a particular way of carrying herself that implied Annelle's innocence and lack of conviction, and then that developed as her character developed, showing someone still shy but learning to assert themselves.
I also had a rollicking good time listening to the banter exchanged between Ouiser (Kay Francis) and Clairee (Suzanne Stark). Watching them spar with each other in fits of wit and gossip was a great joy to watch. It maintained enough tension to make you wonder if one would go a little too far with the other and cause a true ruckus.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS is full of quick and punchy one-liners that are sure to make you laugh and moments of harsh reality that may make you cry. In short, it has a bit of everything, but mostly it has great insight into the joys of a community of women who are relentless in their support of one another.
Robert Harling's STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a tear-jerking play that represents the female bond and exemplifies the hardy strength that bolsters six women from a small Lousiana town through times of joy and deep sorrow.
After showing a dramedy feel in the first act, the laughs took off like a missile in the second act. The whole of the 6-woman cast exhibited in their characters both strength and femininity. Kay Francis' Ouiser (pronounced like weezer), the personification of older southern womanhood, was grumpy as can be, creating ample comedic tension with the other characters. Suzanne Stark was all gossip and puff in her role as Clairee. I enjoyed the energy she brought to the show.
Deb Wims' Truvy was also a bit of a spark plug, which I greatly appreciated and felt akin to. She and the wonderful Morgan Jackson had a some great on-stage chemistry as they carried the first scene, in which Annelle, new to town, proves herself worthy of being a part of Truvy's Beauty Spot.
Diane Kondrat and Lari White brought pathos to the show as a mother and daughter facing the perils of marriage, pregnancy, and illness. White played the nuances of her unfortunate character arc well, while Kondrat was best in her quiet, pensive moments.
Don't miss your chance to hear the latest gossip at Truvy's! Be sure to snag your tickets before February 2nd.