Don’t be fooled by the petals; underneath the magnolia flower is a heart of strength.
And the all-female cast of 5th Company Lane’s production of Steel Magnolias live up to the title’s implications.
Set in Louisiana in the 1980s, Steel Magnolias takes place in a beauty salon where a group of six women spend their days gossiping. Though these fast-talking women are of different generations, they support each other through issues of health, family, romance and grief, dealing with life’s obstacles the best way they know how.
Although the Baiden Street Theatre offers a smaller stage with which to work, the detailed salon set created an intimate atmosphere. This made me feel as though I might have been another customer in the salon eavesdropping on the gossip. As the actors get their hair and nails done, the bitter and familiar smell of hairspray and nail polish remover filter into the audience, further inviting me into the private lives of the salon’s regulars.
The use of popular 80s music, bright and dated costumes and well-rehearsed Southern accents all helped to set the scene and tone of the play.
The six central women of the play were well-cast, creating genuine characters and accurately portraying the variations in age. The chemistry between the actors strengthened the believability of the characters’ onstage relationships.
Neither Allie Tzimas as Clairee, Emily Harris as Annelle, nor Rebecca Moran as Oiser fell short when it came to the grandeur of their Southern belle characters, garnering the most laughter from the audience. Their sharp performances were reminiscent of the strong women cast in the 1989 movie version.
Hannah May, playing Truvy, the owner of the salon, gave a heartwarming performance of a woman who, like her salon, has the unique ability to bring people together.
Emily Bojda as Shelby, and Marta McDonald as her mother M’Lynn pull at the audience’s heart strings as their bond is strengthened by facing their struggles together. McDonald’s particularly emotional performance was very touching and real, in a way that showed her character as a true pillar of both beauty and strength. As I left the play, it became clear to me that though women are often perceived as a delicate magnolia flower, the women of Steel Magnolias represent the strength and solidity that each woman also carries inside her.
And the women of 5th Company Lane’s production are each, in their own right, steel magnolias.
Steel Magnolias runs in the Baiden Street Theatre tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow night at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
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