Steel Magnolias | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Steel Magnolias

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Steel Magnolias, Bog Theatre. Sometimes it's a kitchen, sometimes a sewing circle. Today it might be a Starbucks or a meeting of "women who do too much." Every age and culture seems to have a place where women gather to share their opinions and their lives. In Robert Harling's 1987 play (made into a movie in 1989), it's a beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana. In four scenes spanning almost three years, six women prepare themselves--cosmetically and emotionally--for their happiest and most tragic occasions.

But the events in their lives are much less important than the histories of these southern women and the chemistry between them. This cast had some beautifully cohesive moments, but Daniel Scott's staging was unevenly paced, and the performances and dialects varied widely (if five of these women grew up in the same town, why do they have three different twangs?). The high points: as beauty operators Truvy and Annelle, Kate Harris and Cheryl Lynn Golemo showed terrific comic instincts--Golemo's slow-witted earnestness contributed significantly to the show's most hilarious and poignant moments. Cira Vance's Ouiser shot out her wicked retorts like well-aimed pistol fire. Like her character, M'Lynn, Anne Gregory was right there when she was needed most, but it took her a while to get to the same energy level as the other cast members.

With a story so familiar, the execution must be remarkable to merit a "must see." This is a serviceable rendition of a heart-wrenching work.

--Kim Wilson

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