The production team, cast and crew of STEEL MAGNOLIAS have all received an incredible review from Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers. We are proud to have the excellent work of all involved on the PlazaCo stage and hope you’ll take the time to see the show before it closes July 19th. Read on for a great review and then call 817-202-0600 to get your seats.
PLAZA’S STEEL MAGNOLIAS IS A CUT ABOVE
by Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers
The camaraderie and bonding of the beauty parlor — free of concern about social status or position on the career ladder — must be for women what the golfing trip or fishing expedition is for men: a time and place where anything goes, everything can be discussed off-the-record and everybody remains friends.
The conversations can be side-splitting funny one minute and painfully truthful the next.
Even downright heartbreaking.
But you go again and again.
That’s the way it is at Truvy’s Beauty Spot, the Chinquapin, La., hair salon where the easy-going and laid-back proprietress and her gawky assistant serve four regular customers — all with sharp tongues and soft hearts. That’s the focal point of the Plaza Theatre Co.’s production of “Steel Magnolias,” playing through July 19 at the Plaza Theatre in Cleburne.
You are probably familiar with the 1989 movie by the same name and its all-star cast of Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Daryl Hannah.
This is better because the only set, the interior of the beauty parlor cleverly designed by JaceSon Barrus, makes each member of the audience feel like he or she should be the next customer in Plaza’s intimate 160-seat theater-in-the-round.
It’s not just the set, not just the funny lines and roller coaster of emotions that has you choking back tears one second then laughing so hard you cry.
It’s the actors. You can immediately identify someone in real life that you know is just like one of them.
The only men in the play are the ones created in your imagination by the dialogue. This is ensemble acting at its best, and the ladies pull it off with precision timing.
Truvy — played by Granbury Theatre Company veteran Angela Burkey and looking just like a hairdresser should — competes for business with the nearby Kut and Kurl and Beauty Box. But business is so good she hires an assistant, Annelle, played by Plaza rookie Brianna Knapp.
There are lots of laughs as timid and awkward Annelle is spooked by distant gunfire and realizes she has been duped by her husband. Later, she finds religion, has a personalty transplant and attempts to convert everyone in sight. But instead of her new-found religion being too sugary, Knapp plays it just right and turns out to be a sweetheart, just like the rest.
The maturing of Annelle is one of three sub-plots. The others are the adventures of Clairee, widow of the former mayor who buys the local radio station, and Ouiser, a cranky, twice-married, overalls-wearing curmudgeon who finds happiness when she begins dating again.
The fast-talking, quick-witted Clairee — “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize” — is played by longtime Carnegie Players actress and director Kate Hicks, whose considerable skills make it look easy.
That Hicks has joined Carnegie veterans Hillard Cochran, Dick Helmcamp, Shannon Loose and Andrew Guzman in making the jump back and forth between Cleburne theatre companies can only mean good things for the future of live theater in Johnson County.
Shauna Lewis is Ouiser, the same role she played when PTC first presented “Steel Magnolias” in 2010. She sounds and looks like she just arrived from the Louisiana backwoods.
The main story line centers around well-to-do M’Lynn, played by Trich Zaitoon, and her daughter, Shelby, played by Alvarado Junior High drama director Kristi Mills, who was last seen on the PTC stage in January in “Cash on Delivery.”
The play takes place over a two-year period, with the first of its four scenes taking place on Shelby’s wedding day. The silliness takes a serious turn when it’s surprisingly and dramatically revealed that Shelby is a diabetic who has been advised by her doctor not to have children.
Since each scene takes place months following the last, the dialogue between the ladies — just like the ubiquitous phone call in daytime soap operas — catches us up on what has happened in the intervening months.
The drama ensues when the headstrong Shelby announces she is pregnant and is going to have the baby regardless of what the doctors say.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the outcome. If you notice the tissue boxes positioned throughout the theater for the audience to use, you can figure it out for yourself.
Zaitoon, who debuted on the PTC stage in its first production of “Steel Magnolias,” and has been in about a half dozen PTC productions — most recently “Enchanted April,” delivers an outstanding monologue that has everyone reaching for the tissue boxes.
Just as she explodes with anger and wants to vent by hitting someone, the group offers up Ouiser as a sacrifice in one of the play’s funniest scenes that personifies the emotional ups and downs of this terrific night at the theater.
Perhaps it’s best that this is a woman-only performance, so the men in the audience can see how these “steel magnolias” use humor, mutual respect and love to handle the trivial and the worst of situations.
Directed by Taffy Geisel, with stage management by Cessany Ford,, costume design by Stacey Blanton, light design and sound design by G. Aaron Siler, this is a good one. There’s no swearing, no sexual innuendo. There are plenty of laughs and, yes, a few tears.
“Steel Magnolias” — written by Robert Harling and originally produced by the W.P.A. Theater in New York in 1987 — plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Saturdays, through July 19 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St. in Cleburne.