Saturday, August 7, 2021

Millbrook: "Steel Magnolias"

 Though none of them ever appear on stage, there's a lot of talk about the men in the lives of the six women in Steel Magnolias, now playing at the Millbrook Community Theatre. Whether they are good-old-boys, successful young lawyers, deadbeat tv couch-potatoes, criminals, born-again Christians, former mayors, or unwanted exes, we can't help but sympathize with the women who escape to Truvy's hair salon every week to literally and figuratively let their hair down in a place where no man would dare to enter.

Director A. John Collier's take on this Community Theatre staple doesn't break any new ground; rather he presents the intertwining stories of the characters with a straightforwardness appropriate to the script, and the opening night audience responded approvingly, often anticipating several of the play's most quotable lines.

By now, most local audiences know the plot of Robert Harling's 1987 play, centered on the plight of young Shelby's journey from her wedding day, ill-advised pregnancy, and death, and her effect on the lives of the other characters. -- So it is up to the ensemble performances of the actors to develop their roles truthfully, combining humor and pathos. 

The Millbrook cast are up to the task, and show the mother-daughter dynamic between M'Lynn [Joannie Deneve] and Shelby [Hannah Moore] as a complex love-hate relationship; Truvy [Rae Ann Collier] and Annelle [Shea Jackson] grow closer as Annelle gradually becomes more assertive; and frenemies Ouiser [Margaret White] and Clairee [Vicki Moses] bicker constantly, but are always there for support.

And, while their physical and vocal energies lag at times, this two-and-a-half-hour production demonstrates the steely strength of women who rely on one another for the strength to overcome even the most challenging events...and without their men.