Steele Magnolias – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Hop one town over for some sweetness, bitter sweet though may be. If you weren’t lucky enough to be gifted a sister, perhaps you have acquired a few good female friends who surround you with comfort and support in happy times and sad. A sisterhood of strong women can certainly be a blessing. In Robert Harling’s touching story of friendship and survival “Steel Magnolias” gracing the stage of Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, January 28, Harling took the story of his sister Susan, her life and her death, and wove it into a saga of laughter and tears, the gifts of friendship in joy and in sorrow. This is now the thirtieth anniversary of this very personal tale.

Truvy’s Beauty Parlor is more than just a place for cuts and curls, hair spray and permanent waves. It is a way of life for the ladies of Chinquapin, Louisiana as they mark weddings, anniversaries, births and deaths and share gossip, secrets and offer support and encouragement.

Jill Taylor Anthony’s Truvy is the mother hen who presides lovingly over her roost, watching over her newest chick and hire Annelle (Liza Couser) who finds comfort in religion and prayer as she tries to find her way, Clairee (Dorothy Stanley) who has lost her prestigious position as the wife of the mayor but still wants respect and a little adventure, Ouiser (Peggy Cosgrave) who thrives on being contrary, cranky and outspoken to conceal her heart of gold, M’Lynn (Jeannie Hines) who faces reality so clearly that it may be her undoing and M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby (Susan Slotoroff) who is bursting to explore life’s possibilities and grab at the carousel’s gold ring.

These women are all regulars of Truvy’s, who prescribes to the adage “there is no such thing as natural beauty.” They celebrate Shelby’s marriage to Jackson and then hold her in their hearts when she decides, against medical advice, to create a little piece of immortality with a baby. As Shelby declares, “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Susan Haefner directs a stellar cast on a set designed by David Lewis.

For tickets ($25-40), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.PlayhouseonPark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 2 p.m.

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