Review: Masquerade Theatre's 'Steel Magnolias' succeeds
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:10
“Steel Magnolias” is a Comedy/Drama that examines the events that took place over a two-year period in the lives of six women, set in a beauty shop, located in the fictional small town of Chinquapin, La.
The play’s underlying themes are the importance of family and the value of friendship. The true meanings of these themes are seen through the challenges these six women faced, such as abandonment, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, sickness and death.
The six women in the play come from very different backgrounds and are all varying in age. Yet, on Saturday mornings in that beauty shop, even Annelle, who was young, timid and cared about everyone, and Ouiser, who was a senior citizen that was very outspoken and a curmudgeon to boot, came together as friends.
Playwright Robert Harling wrote “Steel Magnolias” based on true events that happened in his life. His sister Susan was a Type 1 diabetic. She died after going into a diabetic coma, leaving behind a young son.
“Steel Magnolias” was the first play to be included in an experiment, conducted by Masquerade Theatre’s board of directors and designed to bring new younger blood into the director’s role.
Linda StClair, Masquerade Theatre board member and “Steel Magnolias” executive director, headed up the experiment that focused on the mentoring of a new generation of directors.
This new generation of directors included Jonathan Johnson, director of the “Steel Magnolias” Bashful cast and UTM alumnus, and Brian Johnson, director of the “Steel Magnolias” Blush cast and UTM Lecturer of Psychology. Keri Benthal, assistant director for the Bashful cast was also included in the experiment.
Each director approached the play from a different angle and guided their individual casts within the direction of their vision.
Jonathan Johnson, who directed the Bashful Cast took a more modern, edgy approach to the play. One scene where this more edgy direction was noticeable was when Truvy asked Ouiser if she and Owen were sexually involved. The lines themselves alluded to this, but were not explicit in any way. Johnson chose to have Truvy make the meaning of her question, which was along the lines of, “Ouiser are you and Owen, you know?” clearer by making a gesture with her body mimicking the sex act. This was not overly done, but it was quite unexpected and definitely gave the play a more modern feel.
One scene where this more edgy direction was noticeable was when Truvy asked Ouiser if she and Owen were sexually involved. The lines themselves alluded to this, but were not explicit in any way. Johnson chose to have Truvy make the meaning of her question, which was along the lines of, “Ouiser are you and Owen, you know?” clearer by making a gesture with her body mimicking the sex act. This was not overly done, but it was quite unexpected and definitely gave the play a more modern feel.
The overall blocking and staging flowed very well in the Bashful Cast.
Anna Oliver, who has had many roles on the stage even though she is only 13-years-old, gave a remarkably dramatic and completely believable performance as Annelle Dupuy-DeSoto, as a young woman who was both extremely religious and very pregnant, in the Bashful Cast. The dramatic way that she dropped to her knees to pray and the way that she precariously sat down while portraying a very pregnant woman were marvelous.
Sacchi Doss, who played Clairee Belcher in the Bashful Cast, was completely believable and comfortable in the role of the sophisticated but sassy ex-Mayor’s wife.
Linda Simrell, who played M’Lynn Eatenton in the Bashful Cast, appeared on stage for the first time ever and gave a very deadpan performance throughout most of the play. When she finally showed some emotion towards the end of the play, when her daughter had just died, it was just not believable. She seemed very detached from everyone around her and kept butchering her lines.
Jan Kizer, who played Ouiser Boudreaux in the Bashful Cast, gave her debut performance on stage and completely epitomized the wealthy, sassy and cranky curmudgeon. When she turned towards the audience, pumped her fists in the air and yelled, “Kill Rhett, Kill!” the audience’s laughter was almost deafening. Kizer may have just found her true calling.