BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Fountain Hills
Hilarious, sincere, authentic, real; these are just a few words that describe Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling. Presented by Fountain Hills Theater and featuring a superb cast of fantastic leading ladies, Steel Magnolias is a joy to watch. The script is sharp and tightly written and the actors delivered their lines with exactness and excellent comedic timing.
Set in Truvy Jones's salon, the audience is privy to the gossip, drama, and lunacy of a Louisiana town. The first scene is set on Shelby's wedding day - against a backdrop of gunfire from her daddy trying to eliminate the bird problem for the reception. Shelby's health issues become immediately apparent, and the cast handles the heavy load with grace. As the show progresses through Shelby's pregnancy announcement, transplant surgery, and her untimely death, the humor breaks up the darkness without minimizing the emotions of the group.
The beauty of this show is the strength of the group. Each of the actresses on stage brings unique trials to the group and is wonderfully flawed. When the show opens with Anelle's job interview, it is obvious there is more to her story. Played by Sarah Brisco, Anelle finds herself and her true love with the help of her new friends. Brisco presents Anelle as quiet and unassuming which brings a calming presence to the group.
As the owner of the salon, Truvy Jones, provides the emotional stability for the group. Played by Angela Kabasan, Truvy is energetic, loving, and kind. With expert subtlety, Kabasan allows the audience to understand the ache she feels as an empty nester with a lazy husband. As Clairee, Hilary Hirsch is the perfect former mayor's wife. Hirsch brought grace and humor to the character which made her relatable to the other women on stage and to the audience.
The relationship between Shelby and M'Lynn, played by Avery Volk and Mary Pat Wallace, respectively, is sweet, loving, and full of tension. Wallace portrays M'Lynn's worry about Shelby's decisions without being overbearing. Volk presents Shelby with confidence and kindness. It is not hard to understand why she is so loved.
Which brings us to Ouiser. She is crotchety, snide, and hilarious. Played by Noel Irick, Ouiser provides most of the comedic relief in an otherwise heavy story. Irick has impeccable comedic timing, with a dry delivery that left the audience in stitches. In the final moments of the play, M'Lynn is breaking down over the death of her daughter and screams that she just wants to hit something because she is so angry. Each of the actresses captured the heartache of the moment, when the somber mood is broken by Clairee suggesting that M'Lynn hit Ouiser. This moment provides one of the biggest laughs of the night, despite the seriousness of the moment, which showcases the brilliance of the direction by Roger Prenger.
Steel Magnolias is a heart-warming, yet heart-wrenching, look into the relationships that sustain us through pain and joy. Steel Magnolias plays through October 28, 2018. You will laugh, cry, and leave thankful for the people who carry you through the rough times.
Photo Credit: Tippi Hart