BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS Brings Laughter Through Tears at Sacramento Theatre Company
We hear a lot about women tearing each other down-working mom vs. stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, the way other women dress or style their hair. Steel Magnolias is a lesson in the opposite-the power of positive female relationships. A celebration of strong women and set in a beauty parlor in 1980's Louisiana, the story centers around six women who share laughter, conflict, and unimaginable grief.
The play was written by Robert Harling as an homage to his sister, Susan, who passed away due to complications of type 1 diabetes. He wanted to ensure that his nephew wouldn't forget her. At the same time, it inadvertently served as a catharsis for the entire Harling family.
In the safe, man-free haven of Truvy's salon, these six women gather for support and camaraderie while delivering pointed one-liners to each other with the ease of the familiar. Truvy, the gossipy shop owner, is played by Natasha Hause, whose pores ooze Southern charm like she was born with it. Her assistant, Annelle, is a battered woman-turned-holy roller believably portrayed by STC newcomer Kayla K. Johnston. Janet Motenko, a personal favorite of mine, slays the audience as the queen of the zingers, Ouiser. Who can't relate to, "I'm not crazy, I've just been in a very bad mood for 40 years"? Rounding out the group are the pragmatic mother M'Lynn (Jamie Jones), frail but headstrong Shelby (Carissa Meagher), and the wealthy Clairee (Janis Stevens).
Director Casey McClellan (winner of a Broadway World Best Director award for The Diary of Anne Frank) again shows off his innate ability to grasp sensitive material and draw empathy from his actors to put on a show teeming with emotion. He brings a cohesiveness to his cast that results in a group that seems to truly enjoy each other and what they are doing. It's all there, and, as Truvy says, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
Steel Magnolias plays at Sacramento Theatre Company through December 9th. Tickets may be purchased at tickets.sactheatre.org, via phone at (916) 443-6722, or at the STC Box Office at 1419 H St., Sacramento.
Photo credit: Charr Crail Photography