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'Magnolias' delivered with a twist
By Barbara L. Fredricksen, Arts and Entertainment
Published February 26, 2008
[Photo by Mike Carlson]
Beverly Plummer, left, is Truvy to Meaghan Jameson's Annelle in Steel Magnolias. The play runs through March 9.
One of the best things about live theater is that each time you see the same show, you see a different show.
Sometimes it happens within the same production, when an actor says a line differently or something unexpected happens.
But usually the big differences are between production companies: a director has a different vision of a play or musical's intent or makes a casting choice that goes against the audience's expectation from having seen the show before.
A set or lighting designer can change the whole tenor of a production, as can a costume designer or a sound engineer.
And certainly, an actor's interpretation of a character or the chemistry between and among the actors can make all the difference in the world.
So it happens with Steel Magnolias, the stories of six women who share their lives during regular visits to a small beauty shop in a tiny Louisiana town in the 1980s. It plays weekends through March 9 at Richey Suncoast Theatre.
Director Charlie Skelton's cast and crew deliver the goods and then some, with some discussion-provoking twists.
Susan Nichols gives a finely nuanced performance as M'Lynn Eatenton, the Chinquapin social maven who is overseeing the wedding of daughter Shelby, played with delightfully flighty enthusiasm by Ereka Passarella.
M'Lynn is okay with the marriage, but worried that the physically fragile Shelby may risk her life by becoming pregnant. Nichols' quiet, thoughtful monologue near the end of Act 2, combined with Marie Skelton's beautiful lighting design, is a heart-stopper that segues organically into a powerful, dramatic moment.
M'Lynn and Shelby are surrounded by their supportive beauty shop friends: owner Truvy Jones (a spunky Beverly Plummer), the wealthy widow Clairee Belcher (Anne Lakey), the cantankerous but rich Ouiser Boudreaux (Lorus A. Hawbecker) and town newcomer Annelle Dupuy (played with endearing naivete by Meaghan Jameson).
Lakey is warmly appealing as the soft-spoken Clairee, a likeable widow who misses the mildly royal deference accorded the wife of a small-town mayor.
Hawbecker's boisterous Ouiser is a bit startling and off-putting at first, with lurching zaniness, some slapstick mugging and uneven regional accent, but she settles down in Act 2 and, for the most part, melds nicely with the genteel Southern tone set by the rest of the cast.
IF YOU GO:
Steel Magnolias, weekends through March 9 at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15, reserved seating. Box office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (727) 842-6777.