Renaissance City Theatre Company, the producing entity at the Granite Theatre's second show of their 15th season is Robert Harling's classic comedy/drama "Steel Magnolias." Truvy's beauty salon is the unofficial hub of Chinquapin Parish, LA, where the ladies of the neighborhood congregate weekly to share each other's lives. The play focuses on the camaraderie of six Southern women who talk, gab, gossip, needle and harangue each other through the best of times and cry, caress, comfort and repair one another during the worst of times. They're soul mates in a rarefied way of combining laughter and pain that extracts tears from the most cynical viewer. These women are the steel magnolias of the title:Southern belles, flowery on the inside but strong enough on the outside to handle any challenge thrown their way including the death of a loved one. Director David Jepson chooses six strong actresses to portray these roles. David creates an acting ensemble to bring the audience to laughter and tears at the appropriate moments.
David also designed the fantastic beauty salon set. Beth Jepson delivers a strong performance as the bereaved mother, M'Lynn. She displays the love for her daughter in the emotional speech about being there when her daughter, Shelby arrived in the world as well as when she left this world. This speech makes the audience choke back their tears at the poignancy of this scene. Her daughter, Shelby is played by Katie Flanagan. She shows her bubbly behavior in the beauty salon on the day of her nuptials. Later on we learn she is a diabetic who shouldn't have a child. Katie displays Shelby's backbone when she tells her mother she is pregnant and when we learn she needs a kidney transplant. This last scene tears your heart out as the pathos flows out into the audience.
The two biggest scene stealers in this show are Denise Lacharite as Clariee and Christine Reynolds as Ouiser. Their funny banter leaves you laughing at their antics. Christine's first entrance is gang busters. She brings down the house with her comic expertise. One of her best lines is that Ouiser has been in a bad mood for forty years. Denise is marvelous whether she is delivering a comic line, "If you don't have anything nice to say, sit beside me" or tugging on your heartstrings in the last scene. These two actresses deliver their one liners brilliantly and they also deliver the goods with the pathos in the final tear jerking moments of the show.
Veronica Strickland plays Truvy, the owner of the beauty salon. She delivers her many lines with ease while doing the ladies hair and nails. Veronica commands the stage as the owner of the beauty salon with her expert line delivery.The last member of the cast is Michelle Mania who is terrific as Annelle, the assistant hairdresser. The character starts out as a timid mouse and becomes more confident as the show goes on. Annelle also becomes a religious zealot who tries to convert the others with humorous results. Michelle also delivers a powerful dramatic moment in the last scene that will leave you in tears. So for a look at a well written Southern show, be sure to catch "Steel Magnolias" at Renaissance City Theatre Company in Westerly, where the topnotch acting and direction will keep you entranced all night long.