Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Steel Magnolias"

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entire contents copyright 1998 by Don Gillis

"Steel Magnolias"

by Robert Harling
Directed By Andrew G. Bobola

Producers: Lolly Hakeem, Vincent Lupino
Stage Manager: Steven M. Dulude
Set: Victor S. Turenne
Assisted by : Peter F. Babiec, Lee Hakeem, Steven M. Dulude, Linda Thomson, Jim Eaton, and Kevin Starcher
Lightning & Sound: Robert Ferland, Jr.
Assistants: Robert Ferland, Sr. Victor Van Thuyne, Andrew Wright
Costumes: Marcia Zammarelli
Dresser: Joan Lussier
Properties: Linda Thomson
Crew: Felicia Gardella, Andrew Wills, Stephanie Bobola,

(in order of appearance)

Truvy.............. Gloria Lennon
Annelle................Laura Ames
Clairee.......... Pamela Jackson
Shelby.....................Jill Pinto
M'Lynn... Karen Gail Kessler
Ouiser....Claire L. Beauregard

Truvy's beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana is where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to have their hair done. Truvy finds an eager new assistant in Annelle, who is not sure she is still married. As the outspoken, wisecracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice; we meet the other four women who form the close-knit group. Clairee, an eccentric millionaire who buys the local radio station, has a sweet tooth and a passion for football. Ouiser, Clairee's long time best friend and a wealthy curmudgeon, saves most of her affection for her dog Rhett. M'Lynn, the local social leader, loves her daughter so much that she gives Shelby one of her kidneys. Shelby, the prettiest girl in town, marries a "good ole boy" lawyer, and sacrifices her own body for the love of her child.

The Community Players production of this warm and tender drama is a compassionate look at Robert Harling's six-women show, based on his family and friends. He was taught that men were the tough ones and women were the delicate "magnolias." He discovered however, that women were really the ones made of steel.

This production, directed by Andrew G. Bobola, has all the ingredients for a great night of theatre. As I started to watch the show, the major surprise for me was that the stage version, unlike the movie version focuses more on female bonding and friendships, not on the tragedies. There are at least a half dozen men mentioned, but they are never seen, which leaves a lot to the audience's imagination as to what those characters are like. For instance, what was Shelby's "good ole boy" husband lawyer like? Or any of the other men in the other characters lives?. We see these men only through the women's eyes, which was interesting. Also, how many men can go into a beauty parlor and get a sneak preview of a whole new world they've always been curious about?

Each character in this production has its own identity, which is probably its strongest point. The six actresses provide the audience with a myriad of experiences they have been subjected to in their lives. Shelby, played by Jill Pinto, is the young determined woman who has diabetes, and must be careful of her health. Despite that, she is determined to bring a child into the world, and has a baby, not heeding the warnings of her mother, M'Lynn, played by Karen Gail Kessler. The relationship between mother and daughter is a strained one because of the differences they have about Shelby's life. M'Lynn wants the best for her daughter and is determined to protect her from "herself" at all times. Jill Pinto and Karen Gail Kessler are dynamic and touch your heartstrings most of the way through the show. Kessler's scene when she is explaining to the others about her daughter's tragedy is warm-hearted and sentimental and surely had the audience with a lump in their throats.

But its not all tragedy that we see here. For instance, Truvy as played by Gloria Lennon, is an outspoken, wisecracking owner of the salon, who seems to be very comfortable on stage, after a seven year absence from community theatre. She adds some light moments to this production, with her flip attitude.

And, there is Clairee, played by Pamela Jackson, who is an eccentric millionaire who buys the local radio station, has a sweet tooth and a passion for football! Most of her scenes were really a dialogue of character interactions, which Pam handles well.

Laura Ames plays Annelle, the eager new assistant for Truvy who is not sure she is still married. She is a mixed up woman in the beginning of the play, but after the women find out about her life, they convince her to enjoy herself and go out and have a ball. Laura has role changes that she handled very well---from party girl to religious freak.

Then, there is Ouiser, played by veteran actress Claire L. Beauregard. Ouiser is a wealthy curmudgeon who saves most of her affection for her dog, Rhett. Claire plays the part exceptionally well, and it was a joy to see here back on the Community Players stage after a seven year absence. And as Ouiser , one of her lines that I loved was "I"m not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for 40 years." !!

This all-women cast worked so well together that you will probably want to see this production again. I know the female audience loved it, but you dont' have to be female to enjoy this one guys, go see it and you will be enlightened.........I know I was.

"STEEL MAGNOLIAS" (till 28 June)
The Community Players of Pawtucket
Jenks Junior High School Auditorium, PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND
(401) 726-6860
Check their website.

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