The Manatee Players serve up laughs and tears with Steel Magnolias.
By Kay Kipling
I’ve seen Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias a number of times now, and while I can sometimes get restless with all the talk, talk, talk in Truvy’s beauty salon, the test of the production always comes for me in Act II: Will I make it through the end without a tear, or will I start blubbering halfway through M’Lynn’s big speech?
Well, you know the answer….I never make it through all the way dry-eyed. And such was the case with the Manatee Players’ current production of this oft-seen comedy-drama about a group of Southern women who meet to have their hair done, gossip and support each other through the changes in their lives. Although the acting in this staging is sometimes stilted, there are still enough laugh lines, enough genuine emotion and enough of a feeling of sisterhood to carry it through.
Working with a cast mostly composed of Manatee Players’ newcomers, director Kelly Wynn Woodland does a nice job of balancing the humor and the sadness. Mary Jo Johnson is a lively Truvy; Joan O’Dwyer gets off some good lines as town leader Clairee; Julee Breehne makes an appealing Shelby; and Patti O’Berg is a strong presence as the grouchy Ouiser. Heather Gillman’s Annelle is a little too subdued at times, and Hollie Corbitt as M’Lynn at first feels miscast, but ends up delivering in the end as she comes face to face with her loss in that Act II speech.
The set by Suzinn Edelston makes for a believable small-town Southern beauty salon, and the actresses mostly do a convincing job when it comes to the hair styling parts of the show, which must be performed naturally and, of course, while appearing to carry on a normal conversation.
Steel Magnolias continues through Oct. 12; for ticket info call 748-5875 or visit manateeplayers.com.