By Robert Harling. Directed by Shel Piercy. A Boone Dog Productions presentation. At the Nest on Friday, February 14. Continues until March 8
Delicate but unbreakable is the theme of Steel Magnolias, a play that celebrates the joys of friendship and laughter, underlined by the strength of female courage. In its debut show, Boone Dog Productions has nicely brought to life Robert Harling’s compelling story, which many people may be familiar with from the film version. This production tells the tale in a way that is touchingly intimate, and that radiates sincerity.
Set in Louisiana, beginning in the late 1980s, the play takes us through a series of Saturday mornings in a hair salon owned by Truvy (Sheryl Anne Wheaton). On those days, the salon is reserved only for the neighbourhood women—a.k.a. Truvy’s best gal pals. When the show begins, it’s the morning of the wedding for Shelby (Jaime Piercy), and there’s a ton of action.
The introduction to the story’s main plot is deceiving in that it’s disguised as fluff—which can be said about the play as a whole. What on the surface may seem petty—a group of southern women in a hair salon, gossiping and hashing out personal issues—masks some seriously thought-provoking drama.
Director Shel Piercy has assembled a cast of six very different women who complement each other nicely. Much like her character, Truvy, Wheaton is the rock of the group, holding the production together with her calmness and sincerity. Among the cast, she’s one of the strongest in handling a southern accent, and she exudes great likability.
Lalainia Lindbjerg and Jaime Piercy are convincing as mother-and-daughter duo M’Lynn and Shelby, from their arguments about Shelby’s wedding-day hairstyle to the story’s darker, more serious discussions around life and death—specifically, of diabetes, and its risks associated with giving birth. They both pull off the comedic moments with grace, while handling the pacing and delivery of the heavy drama in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the audience, but that’s still impactful.
This production was a bit unpolished on opening night, with a few minor line errors by cast members, as well as long scene changes that seemed underrehearsed. But these blemishes weren’t enough to mar the show’s heartfelt storytelling.
Piercy has infused some clever directorial choices throughout the show that strengthen its up-close-and-personal feel, as well as its believability. These include having Shelby brew coffee on-stage, the aroma of which travels into the audience; and the ’80s classics that are played on the salon’s radio, always foreshadowing the upcoming plot changes. Chris Sinosich’s wig designs also add to the show’s period authenticity, capturing the big, bold hairstyles of the ’80s.
Steel Magnolias is quite an undertaking, given the challenge of bringing to life the flavour of 1980s Louisiana, and balancing out light comedic moments with poignant drama. Boone Dog Productions has done a nice job of tackling this challenging piece, offering six local actors a great opportunity to showcase their chops.