by Lynn on July 1, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge, Cambridge, Ont. Playing until July 6, 2024.

Written by Robert Harling

Directed by Sheila McCarthy

Set by Douglas Paraschuk

Costumes by Jennifer Wonnacott

Lighting by Siobhán Sleath

Cast: Lauren Bowler

Ellen Denny

Sharon Heidt

Mary Pitt

Chick Reid

Blythe Wilson

The hilarious secrets and truths shared in a hairdresser’s salon.

What is there about hairdressing salons that make women so comfortable that they tell their hairdresser and each other their innermost secrets and gossip?  

We are in Truvy Jones’ (Sharon Heidt) hairdressing salon. She has a new hairdresser, Anelle Dupuy-Desoto (Lauren Bowler) and it’s her very first day on the job so she is getting the lay of the land of how Truvy runs her salon. Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, (Ellen Denny) is getting married later that day and she and her mother M’Lynn Eatenton (Blythe Wilson) are coming in to get their hair done. M’Lynn is anxious and hovering, trying to control every decision Shelby makes, much to Shelby’s dismay. The regulars arrive: Clairee Blecher (Mary Pitt) has a quip for every occasion and a laser focus to see the stupidity in things; Ouiser Boudreaux (Chick Reid) has a complaint for every occasion and gives it with panache and a look of disdain.

There are secrets to share; stories about a husband who is distant and likes to shoot off guns for fun; relationships gone wrong; a marriage that might not be prudent; ill-health to deal with; all handled by women with grit and a sense of humour. Any woman who has ever stepped foot in a hair salon will recognize the characters, the conversation and the secrets.

Sheila McCarthy directs this with style and of course a keen sense of the humour of the piece and how to realize it so beautifully. The acting is fine. Lauren Bowler as Anelle Dupuy-Desoto is initially tentative because Anelle is trying to fit into the rhythm of the salon, but then she gets more and more confident. As Truvy Jones, Sharon Heidt is upbeat, jolly and compassionate when needed. Ellen Denny as Shelby and Blythe Wilson as M’Lynn are a colourful daughter and mother. Shelby is frustrated by her mother M’Lynn’s interference, but controls it nicely, in Ellen Denny’s measured performance. Blythe Wilson is both uptight and loving as M’Lynn and then has to deal with a tremendous upheaval in her life, and Blythe Wilson negotiates that beautifully too.  As Ouiser Boudreaux, Chick Reid rises to the occasion of snapping every one of Ouiser’s caustic comments to that whenever she enters we know it will be funny. The same can be said of Clairee Blecher, played with supreme confidence and timing by Mary Pitt. We know early on in the show that Claire has the best lines and the most withering observations. She says to Ouiser, “I love you more than my luggage.” It’s said deadpan, evenly and leaves you shaking your head at the silliness but rightness of the line when Mary Pitt says it.

It’s interesting that a man wrote this—Robert Harling—and he’s bang on in capturing the conversations and thoughts of women. The impetus for writing it was his sister, Susan, who died of kidney failure due to complications from diabetes. The story is reflected in the play.  

Steel Magnolias is a bitter-sweet play of women bonding with their friends; exchanging gossip and secrets, and supporting each other when disaster happens. It’s a treat of a play and a dandy production.

Drayton Entertainment Presents:

Playing until July 6, 2024.

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (1 intermission)

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