Anyone who has ever gone to a local beauty shop or barber knows that it is the location where you hang out with friends, and find out everything good, bad, and in-between about your community. STEEL MAGNOLIAS now playing through September 17th from Backyard Renaissance at the 10th Ave Arts Center is funny and emotional as it celebrates the unique bond of female friendship through the years.
Set in the 1980’s in the small town of Chinquapin, Louisiana at the salon of Truvy (Wendy Maples), the play unfolds in three acts. When it opens, everyone is getting ready to celebrate the wedding of Shelby (Liliana Talwatte), daughter of M’Lynn (Marci Anne Wuebben). Along with Truvy is the new hairdresser Annelle (Claire Kaplan) who has just moved to town. Soon they are all joined by Clairee (Dagmar Kruse Fields) the widow of the former mayor who is looking for something new to occupy her time, and the perpetually cranky Ouiser (Annie Hinton) who is fed up with most everyone, but especially M’Lynn’s husband who is shooting at birds to scare them away.
As Shelby makes some last-minute changes to her wedding hair, M’Lynn finds herself having to adjust with not always being able to keep her daughter from making decisions she hasn’t cosigned. This kicks off the crux of the main plot, as Shelby, M’Lynn, and the others all start to make decisions about their lives – while the others support and help them deal with any consequences.
Directed by Anthony Methvin, the play takes its time, allowing the audience to get the feel for each character and their relationships with each other. Each performer is strong, but the real joy is watching them all work as an ensemble dishing the dirt on people and trading zingers.
Maples is delightful as the Truvy, whose garage turned salon has become the best place in town for a wash, curl, and some gossip. Kapal as Annelle goes from a shy outsider to a trusted insider, even as her personal choices seem a bit baffling to the rest of the group.
As M’Lynn, Wuebben is the emotional center as an overprotective mother who only wants what’s best for her daughter, even if Shelby doesn’t agree. Talwatte is charming as Shelby, who goes from a blushing bride to a woman who makes hard decisions to make her dream come true – no matter the cost.
Fields as Clairee is funny and provides a lot of laughs along with some good advice. Her banter with Hinton’s character is lovely as you can see their love for each other even as they needle each other for fun. Like when you add lemon to your iced tea Hinton as Ousier brings a much-needed acidic kick to keep everything balanced.
The charming salon is brought to life by Tony Cucuzzella’s scenic design, which is complimented by lighting from Michelle Miles, and sound by Andrew Gutierrez. Costumes by Jeanne Reith are cute with 80’s touches, and since this is a set in a hair salon the wigs by Peter Herman are critical players throughout. Shout out to Maples and Kaplan who capably do the setting and up-dos called for in the show as well, that can’t be easy.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS is very funny, sweet, and at times sad, but most of all it celebrates the power of friendships through the good, the bad, and the questionable hair choices.
How To Get Tickets
STEEL MAGNOLIAS from Backyard Renaissance is playing through September 17th at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center. For ticket and show time information go to www.backyardrenaissance.com
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