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Steel Magnolias
a Comedy/Drama
by Robert Harling

COMPANY : New London Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : New London Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4115

SHOWING : September 09, 2011 - September 25, 2011



The action centers on Truvy's beauty parlour and the women who regularly gather there. The story begins on the morning of Shelby's wedding to Jackson and covers events over the next three years, including Shelby's decision to have a child despite having Type 1 diabetes and the complications that result from the decision. There is also a glimpse of the unlikely friendship between Clairee and Ouiser; Annelle's transformation from a shy, anxious newcomer in town to a good-time girl and then to a revival-tent Christian; and Truvy's relationships with the men in her family. Although the main storyline involves Shelby, her mother and Shelby's medical battles, the underlying group-friendship among all six women is prominent throughout the drama.

Director Starshine Stanfield
Clairee Lisa Gordon
M'Lynn Beth Mappes
Truvy Nancy Powell
Ouiser Tami Scheinman
Shelby Meredith Shockley
Annelle Rachel Wagner
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by playgoer
Sunday, September 18, 2011
New London Theatre's "Steel Magnolias" has a lot going for it. The set design by Scott Rousseau cleverly masks elements of the two-story space to turn it into Truvy's renovated carport beauty salon. Design is 80's tasteful, with walls painted in peach and plum and a lovely sitting area by the door, two Palladian windows beside it. This is a more elegant set than I have usually seen for "Steel Magnolias," but it makes a lot of sense. While Truvy may not be well-to-do, her clientele of Clairee and Ouiser and M'Lynn certainly are, and they probably wouldn't be happy in a dingy, cheap add-on.

Truvy, as played by the ebullient Nancy Powell, would capture a clientele no matter what. She is the heart of the show, embodying her philosophy that "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Hers is a terrific performance, a pleasure from start to finish.

The other five roles are also filled well. Rachel Wagner brings a sweet tenativeness to her initial scene as new assistant Annelle, transitioning nicely to the peaceful, born-again Annelle of the final scene. Lisa Gordon is a hoot as Clairee, choosing a playful interpretation of her character, adding an infectious laugh that eggs the audience on to laughter of their own. Meredith Shockley is a very effective Shelby, sweet and tender and sometimes willful, with an inherent sadness that sometimes flickers through her resolutely positive outlook. Beth Mappes, who plays her mother M'Lynn, actually looks like her mother, which is a pleasant change from most productions. She and Tami Collup Scheinman, as Ouiser, don't seem to inhabit their characters quite as fully as the others, though. Ms. Scheinman is too inherently likeable in her presentation, and Ms. Mappes doesn't temper her often sour dialogue with any inherent sweetness.

I loved the blocking in this show. The audience sits where the mirrors for the two beauty salon stations would be, and lines are often delivered as though one character is speaking to the reflection of another. This keeps the ladies' faces front, where all their emotions can be seen, and truly involves the audience in the show. It can't have been easy for the cast to work in this manner, with no real eye contact occurring, but the result is delightful. Kudos to director Starshine Stanfield for using this effect consistently and getting her actresses to work it so well.

The show takes place in a beauty salon, with Truvy and Annelle actually dressing hair during their lines. Business during lines is not an easy thing, and Ms. Powell and Ms. Wagner acquit themselves well. The baby's breath in Shelby's hair looked quite professional. What really impressed me, though, were the wigs. Hair lengths and styles changed for Shelby and Clairee, and I really couldn't tell which styles were wigs and which styles were real, from a pretty close-up seat. Most Atlanta professional theatres can't equal that trick.

Lighting, by Journey Stanfield, is generally effective, although I would have liked a late-afternoon light effect through the windows for the Christmas scene in which fuses have blown. That scene was just a bit too dim. Sound could also have been a problem, since a radio is kept playing throughout much of the show. The ladies all projected well, though, so hearing lines was rarely a problem.

The only significant problem, I thought, was the pace of the show. While "Steel Magnolias" has a lot of emotional moments, too many of them were allowed to bog down the momentum of scenes. The effect of the scenes was always true-to-life, but sometimes a play needs to heighten and quicken real life to keep the audience engaged. Still, all in all, this is a fine production of a cherished, oft-done play. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Woohoo! by Pinkiesdiva
I'm "too inherently likeable!" I AM a good actress! haha!


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