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Steel Magnolias

With Southern Change to Spare

ACT Presents

Steel Magnolias
Jan. 27-Feb 19, 2012

 

By Jamie Newsom

 

It’s April 1983. The hairdos are big, the eye shadow is frosted, and “call waiting” is a novelty item.

At Truvy’s salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, it’s Shelby Eatonton’s wedding day, and the neighborhood ladies have gathered to gossip, drink coffee, exchange recipes, and possibly even get their hair done.

Anchorage Community Theatre’s production of Robert Harling’s tearjerking ensemble piece “Steel Magnolias,” directed by Megan Bladow, is sweet, funny, and leaves the audience in the proper blend of laughter and tears. On opening night even several of the men in the audience could be heard muffling sobs.

Thanks to the basic-cable pervasiveness of the 1989 film version, it’s a pretty safe bet that most folks going to see this show will already know the story. Shelby’s wedding, like all the major plot points in the play, takes place off stage, and from there her tragic story unfolds.

Morgan Mitchell plays Shelby, a headstrong diabetic who’s determined to not let her illness slow her down in life. Erin Dagon Mitchell plays her long-suffering mother, M’Lynn. Stacy Miller is the sassy salon owner Truvy and Lois Simenson reigns as the former first lady of Chinquapin, Clairee. Susannah Perkins plays Truvy’s naïve new-in-town assistant Annelle, and Wilma Keller brings the house down as the Eatontons’ cranky neighbor Ouiser Boudreaux. These ladies may wear pearls, but they also know how to handle their firearms.

It seems that ACT has been selling out a lot of their shows recently, a happy development for the local Anchorage theatre scene, and Friday night’s opening performance of Steel Magnolias was accordingly packed. Though some of the cast members seemed a bit nervous, the spirit of this show beamed through.

The set, designed by Brian Saylor and Jocelyn Paine, brings Truvy’s home salon, where “there’s no such thing as natural beauty!” to life.

The actual hair salon props (where does one even find a set of Spoolies?) and 80s hairstyle promotional posters evoke the kind of frozen-in-time salons which undoubtedly still proudly display the same kind of posters. Credit goes to Cena Moody for props and set dressing.

The current set up of the ACT stage, stretched lengthwise down the long, narrow theatre space, makes it tough for many audience members to see all of the action on stage. It’s frequently like a tennis match with things going on at far ends of the stage and the actors frequently just a few feet from the front row of the audience.

Though this production has its flaws, just like the characters in the play and their offstage husbands, at heart it’s about the sometimes-painful circle of life, the strong bond of women, and the importance of being able to laugh through your tears.

Steel Magnolias plays at Anchorage Community Theatre, 1133 East 70th Ave, Thursdays-Sundays through Feb. 19. For tickets: www.actalaska.org.

 

 

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