After a 15-month hiatus, Everyman Theater resumed its live performances this month, kicking off its 31st season with a refreshing revitalization of Steel magnolia trees, showcasing the brilliance of her all-female ensemble, each member bringing their dynamism, dimension and variety to the endearing ’80s story of friendship and brotherhood that stands the test of time.
Although most people are familiar with the popular version of the 1989 film, featuring a cast of famous actresses (Julia Roberts, Sally Fields, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis), Steel magnolia trees is actually based on an original story by Robert Harling, a New York actor from Louisiana, who wrote the play in honor of his sister six months after her death from complications from diabetes.
Set in a bustling beauty salon in Northwestern (Chinquapin) Louisiana, where six very distinctive and particularly interesting Southern women come together over a three-year span, sharing their ups, downs, and just about every detail between Both, award-winning director Casey Stangl, working with set designer Milagros Ponce De Leon, lighting designer Harold F. Burgess II, sound designer Twi McCallum and costume designer David Burdick, create an incredibly versatile scene where each character can effectively transform her hair while exchanging hilarious and fun dialogue and repartee. .
After a warm welcome from General Manager Marissa LaRose and Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi to an audience fully vaccinated (everyone had to present their vaccination card at the entrance of the theater) and masked, but nonetheless enthusiastic, the member of Resident Company Megan Anderson (recently praised by The Baltimore sun as “Best Stage Actor in Baltimore”) as a salon owner, Truvy immediately captivates with her colorful wardrobe, eye-catching hair and vibrant personality; she’s as lively and sassy as a late-night actress, but she’s just as warm and generous. It’s easy to see why Truvy’s Beauty Salon is the epicenter where a community of women meets regularly to discuss the defining moments in their lives.
Every member of the cast is exceptional and does their own thing, featuring intertwined subplots, centered around marriage, marriage, and the journey of local social leader M’Lynn (Beth Hylton) and her daughter Shelby (Katie Kleiger) to become mom.
Annelle’s (Heather A. Gibson) transformation from a retired and sweet young girl / aspiring esthetician with a mysterious past to a born-again Christian widow and former widow of Mayor Clairee (Nancy Robinette) is discovered as a result of the her husband’s death makes for humor exchanges throughout the show, but Helen Hedman’s performance as a cranky and sarcastic Ouiser was particularly stealing a stage; her reading of “not crazy, just cranky for 40 years” with its perpetually bitter expression was hysterical at almost every turn.
Likewise, Shelby de Kleiger was well-rounded with a calm charm and resilient optimism; she easily expressed her determination to live fully and her unwavering quest to become a mother. She and Hylton’s M’Lynn realistically demonstrated the ups and downs of a mother-daughter relationship in a relatable way.
Likewise, Annelle’s Gibson take was pleasing to the eye; she brought a remarkable openness and nuanced authenticity to the role that was genuine, making her insight and perspective in the second act all the more compelling and impactful.
Extremely heartwarming, Everyman’s production Steel magnolia trees combines beauty and strength with wit and charm, demonstrating the enduring power of friendship and the therapeutic magic of laughter to tenaciously overcome life’s challenges.
Duration: About two hours and 30 minutes, with an intermission.
Steel magnolia trees runs through September 5, 2021 at the Everyman Theater, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. The show can be broadcast from August 27 to September 19, 2001. Tickets can be purchased in line or by calling 410-752-2208. The counters are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SEE ALSO: Season 2021/22 Live From Everyman Theater Starts In August