The play “Steel Magnolias,” written by Robert Harling and directed by Pete Kosa, opened at the Prospect Playhouse on Thursday, Feb. 6, to an enthusiastic audience. Its story is about a period of time in the lives of six women from Northwest Louisiana when they are each at the beginning of a big change. All scenes take place at Truvy’s beauty salon, where the women meet regularly to catch up and share their lives with each other.
The all-female cast, featuring Susan Howe as M’Lynn, Kristine Gray as Shelby, Teri Lynne as Truvy, AliceAnne Brunn as Clairee, Mary-Anne Kosa as Ouiser and Rebekah Jefferson as Annelle, creates the atmosphere of familiarity that comes with long-term friendships.
Apart from Annelle, who is new to the small town of Shreveport, these characters have known each other for decades and have survived marriages, deaths and births, and have known heartache and great joy. They are not “precious” with each other, and at Truvy’s there is no façade, no falsity. It is probably the one place where they are most honestly themselves.
As the play opens, we are introduced to Truvy, the owner of the salon, and Annelle, newly arrived in town and looking for a job on the morning of an important wedding. Teri Lynne as Truvy brings energy and zip to the role, strutting across the stage with confidence and sass while at the same time showering all her friends and clients with an almost motherly affection.
Rebekah Jefferson as Annelle is wonderfully naïve and charming at the start of the play, becoming more worldly as it continues without ever quite losing that air of artlessness. In the wrong hands, this role could have become a caricature, but Jefferson maintains a genuine sweetness as Annelle, while ably providing comic relief.
AliceAnne Brunn, who plays the part of Clairee, the former mayor’s wife, is a sheer joy to watch as she portrays a woman who has lost her husband and is now trying to work out what to do with her life. She delivers every line with a sometimes implied and sometimes literal wink and a nudge, and had the audience laughing aloud. Even in the dramatic scenes, Brunn is able to inject just the right amount of humor into her lines so that the words have heart rather than seeming callous.
Mary-Anne Kosa, who plays Ouiser, Clairee’s oldest friend, is just right as the cantankerous, no-punches-pulled, neighborhood meany with a huge heart, suddenly in her later years and having to deal with the appearance of an old flame. Kosa manages to juggle all the prickles and spurs that are a part of Ouiser while at the same time giving the audience crucial glimpses into her soft side. Kosa and Brunn provide a great deal of the humor throughout the play, bouncing taunts and jibes off each other in the manner of two people who have known each other so long that they don’t have to worry any more.
The final two characters in the play are the two who bring the greatest drama to this production. Shelby, the daughter, a severe diabetic, is on the verge of marriage and about to step out of the reach of her mother’s control. Kristine Gray plays the role of the young, optimistic bride with hope and pluck; the dreamer willing to risk everything for a moment of pure happiness. We feel her frustration as she strives to become independent.
M’Lynn is Shelby’s mother and faced with the difficult situation where the child she would do anything to keep safe will soon be making decisions for herself, and she can only hope they are the right ones. Watching Howe on stage, we feel her constant battle within, wanting to protect her daughter but having to let her go. She has perhaps the most difficult role of the entire cast and yet she is authentic, human and at times, heartbreaking. Howe and Gray have a genuine connection on stage and you can feel the push and pull between them as they struggle with the other’s opinions and decisions, made all the more difficult because of how much they love each other.
Assuming that there are those who may be unfamiliar with this play, I will not spoil it by giving a description of events. Better that they should unfold before you as you enjoy this very funny and very moving production.
It is important to note that the Cayman Drama Society donated 100 percent of the box office proceeds from the opening night performance to the Cayman Islands Diabetes Association, an amount that totaled more than $1,600. As the society is also a nonprofit organization, this was a considerable gift.
Debbie Hand, producer of “Steel Magnolias,” said, “I would certainly like to thank the community for helping us support such a worthwhile organization and cause. Information and education are crucial, not only for individuals directly affected with diabetes, but everyone in our community. We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to support CIDA with their ongoing efforts.”
“Steel Magnolias” will be staged on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for a further two weekends, at 7:30 p.m., through Saturday, Feb. 22. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students 17 years and under. Tickets are available by calling 938-1998, or by emailing [email protected]
Rebekah Jefferson as Annelle is wonderfully naïve and charming at the start of the play, becoming more worldly as it continues without ever quite losing that air of artlessness.