Play: Steel Magnolias
Group: Dramatic License Productions
Venue: Dramatic License Theatre, upper level of Chesterfield Mall near Houlihan’s
Dates: February 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20
Tickets: $15-$20; contact 636-220-7012 or www.DramaticLicenseProductions.com
Story: Life moves at a leisurely pace in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where Truvy’s Beauty Shop is the focal point for all the news about what’s happening to whom in this cozy little neck of the woods. Truvy is breaking in a shy new hairdresser, Annelle, who says she’s married but is living at a nearby boarding house alone. The shop’s regular customers include Clairee, widow of the town’s former mayor; M’Lynn, a medical professional who works at a mental health clinic; her daughter, Shelby, a young woman afflicted with Type 1 diabetes and who is about to be married; and Ouiser, a wealthy and cantankerous old coot whose constant companion is her ornery dog.
In four scenes spread over nearly three years, the ladies share their joys and sorrows while discussing romances old and new, weddings, births, husbands and sons and brothers, the high school football team, the local radio station and life in general in their beloved hamlet.
Highlights: Dramatic License, which bills itself as “the first to present high-quality professional theatre and cabaret west of I-270,” has opened the first theater in the new Artropolis arts section of Chesterfield Mall with this production of Robert Harling’s popular drama. Director Annamaria Pileggi ensures a smooth inauguration with a crisp and engaging presentation that features several of the area’s finest actresses in splendid form.
It’s a pleasure to watch veteran talents such as executive producer Kim Furlow, Donna Weinsting, Sally Eaton, Laurie McConnell and Colleen Backer join talented newcomer Stephanie Brown in this tightly knit, precise ensemble who follow Pileggi’s steady guidance to make this a delightful and appealing production.
Other Info: As Shelby, Brown offers a fine blend of fierce independence with an alarming fragility as the diabetic whose desire for a child conflicts with her doctors’ medical admonitions. She also adopts an accent that matches the territory, if not quite as pronounced and priceless as the thick style employed by McConnell as Truvy. McConnell mines the abundant mother lode of jokes in grand fashion while sharing the laughs with Weinsting and Eaton, as all three display precise comic timing.
Backer brings her own singular brand of humor to the proceedings, comically conveying the well-intentioned but awkward personality of Annelle. With her oversized spectacles, frumpy dress and wild wig, she humorously depicts Annelle’s clumsiness as well as sweet disposition. Furlow completes the sextet with a winning portrayal of M’Lynn, a woman comfortable with her marriage, profession and children but all too aware of her inability to control her strong-willed daughter. Furlow and Weinsting shine in a particularly affecting scene near the work’s conclusion.
Teresa Doggett’s costumes delightfully capture the distinct personalities of the various characters, from Truvy’s fun-loving style to Annelle’s timidity to Ouiser’s irascibility, and Peggy Knock’s decorations nicely match the down-home flavor of Sean Savoie’s set, the comfortable environs of Trudy’s salon. Joseph T. Pini’s sound design enhances the proceedings with a shrewd selection of country ballads sung by various female recording artists.
While the timing was occasionally off on opening night, the ladies nonetheless mesh well and have a grand time delivering Harling’s consistently amusing, sometimes poignant dialogue. Dramatic License appears to have picked a true crowd-pleaser for its West County debut.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.