Robert Harling’s 1987 play is certainly a wonderful piece of theater, but after losing track of the number of productions I’ve seen over the past 25 years – not to mention the all-star 1989 film version – it was one of those shows that I was fine about not seeing again for several years to come. Call it “Magnolias Fatigue.”
But Director Lisa Gillespie had the cure for what ailed me – she cast well and paced the production so its two-plus hours in the fictionalized setting of 1980s Chinquapin, La., flew by with plenty of laughs and tears along the way. And Corbin Green’s add-on-room beauty salon (accompanied by his smooth lighting) is one of the talented designer’s best sets (Katie Delaney’s costumes are sharp too).
Keri Pisapia (who was terrific in a very different role in Tennessee Women’s Theater Project’s Trying) creates a solid-as-a-rock characterization of beautician Truvy. Fellow BRT newcomer Cassie Hamilton is an endearing Annelle.
Linda Speir makes her Clairee funny and authoritative among other finely-formed aspects. Lynn Yates offers the right amount of curmudgeon in her Ouiser while still making her character more than a one-note portrayal.
Lori Bargas has just the right balance of spunk and sweetness as old-soul-in-a-young-body Shelby. And Kay Ayers is brilliant as Shelby’s understandably anxious mother M’Lynn. Ayers’ delivery of M’Lynn’s lines in the final scene is reason alone to see this production.
Steel Magnolias continues through Sept. 8 at the Boiler Room Theatre (The Factory at Franklin, Bldg. Six, 230 Franklin Rd.). Performances start at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. One Thrifty Thursday performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 30, and a Sunday matinee for 2 p.m. Sept. 2. Tickets ($27; $25 for seniors and students; $21 for children under 12; matinee prices are $2, and all Tuesday shows are two tickets for $27; Thrifty Thursday tickets are $17 each) are available by calling (615) 794-7744 or visiting www.boilerroomtheatre.com.