By Dan Rankin
If you heard about a play with a cast full of heroes, where might you expect it to be set? On a battlefield? At a police station or a fire hall? How about a small town Louisiana hair salon? That’s exactly where Robert Harling’s play “Steel Magnolias,” the latest production by the St. Marys Community Players continuing its run at the St. Marys Twon Hall Theatre this weekend, is set. “Steel Magnolias” invites theatre goers into a world inhabited by characters who don’t always get credit for their courage or bravery, but whose stories and tough decisions will be enough to bring even the toughest audience members to tears.
At the centre of the story is Truvy (Patti Muma-Cook), who runs a hair salon out of her home in northwestern Louisiana in the late 1980s, catering to the beauty needs of her small town clientele, while also trading in all the best local gossip. At Truvy’s salon, the audience meets Annelle (Rachel Brewer), a young girl with a mysterious past who’s new in town, Clairee (Aviva Kay), widow to the town’s former mayor, Shelby (Julia Gwynn) the new bride and her mother M’Lynne (Leasa Barclay), and their neighbour Ouiser (pronounced ‘Weezer,’ LauraJean McCann).
The characters provide one another with the support and encouragement they need to get by, celebrating each others’ triumphs and sharing their sadness as the months on the calendar fly by. The way the plot and dialogue are crafted gives the play an especially realistic tone, with elements of humour and tragedy tied together just as they are in real life: as one life ends, another is just beginning. By the end, we learn that these delicate southern “magnolias” are actually made of something a lot stronger.
It’s clear a great deal of fun was had by the crew, including director Rob Coles and stage manager Christin Bossenberry, to bring the 1980s to life on stage, from retro phones, stereos and salon appliances, to the big hair and fashion styles of the day that dress up our characters. The soundtrack evokes not only the time period but also the setting as, between scenes and before and after the play, the audience is treated to a selection of French language Cajun blues songs that will make you feel like you just popped a VHS tape into your VCR.
Treat yourself with a trip out to the Town Hall Theatre this weekend, grab a seat in one the comfy new chairs and take in this heartwarming tale of family, friends and how one can become the other.
“Steel Magnolias” continues at the St. Marys Town Hall Theatre tonight and tomorrow night, Nov. 5, at 8:00 pm. The show closes on Sunday, Nov. 6 with a matinee performance scheduled for 2:00 pm. General admission tickets are $20. Tickets are on sale at the Flower Shop and More by phone (519-284-2013) or in-person, or visit StMarysCommunityPlayers.ca to buy tickets online or for more information about tickets and meal packages.