Much to Love with these ‘Steel Magnolias’

 

“It’s up to us to figure out why we were put on this earth,” Truvy tells the five women who share hair styles, recipe tips –  and their lives – in her small town Deep South salon.

However, for audiences attending Upper Canada Playhouse’s current production, Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, it’s easy to know why Truvy, Annelle, Clairee, Shelby, M’Lynn and Ouiser are “on earth”.

We need the laughter, the fun, the occasional bits of insanity, and the sheer heart these characters can bring into our lives. 

They’re just such wonderful people. 

In an earlier interview Steel Magnolias’ director Donnie Bowes spoke of how he liked “well-drawn, realistic characters facing challenges.

These are characters people feel they know, who are like people they know. And this is a great story, an enduring story.”

Robert Harling’s  powerful 1987 stage play, now performed world wide (turned into a  successful screen play by him in 1989) actually grew out of a loss in his personal family life.

He wrote the play to honour his sister, Susan, and peopled it with women such as she might have known.

Raised in a small Southern town, Harling understands these people, his neighbours. He created six true and very real women.

Each woman is an individual. 

And, in this stage production, each one is deeply memorable. 

“Beauty and strength” is how actor Linda Goranson described the characters in Steel Magnolias.

She could just as well have been describing herself and her fellow cast members: Kate Egan Veinotte, AnnaMarie Lea, Alison MacKay, Erin MacKinnon and Brenda Quesnel. 

Truvy (Lea), Ouiser (Goranson), Clairee (Quesnel) and M’Lynn (Veinotte) have known each other for years. Shelby (MacKinnon), M’Lynn’s daughter and Annelle (MacKay) a waif in the storm, are the new generation.

But Truvy’s Salon is the place where, whatever their ages and backgrounds, they all feel free to be absolutely and utterly themselves. 

Or, as M’Lynn puts it, “This is women’s territory. Men probably think we run around here naked.”

There are lines and comments in this play that had the crowd roaring with laughter. 

(Certainly more than one man in the audience was spotted elbowing his partner with glee at Ouiser’s  sarcastic observation about M’Lynn’s husband: “Drum’s a real gentleman! I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it.”) 

The honesty of the characters, of such real women sharing their lives with the audience, is tremendously appealing.

Yet no one at Truvy’s shies away from the absolute truth that life is sometimes just not fair. 

It is also made up of loss and hurt and helpless anger. And sometimes, no matter what has happened, you just have to go on.

Fragile Shelby says it best, “I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Designer Tristan Goethel’s set for Steel Magnolias gives a natural and nostalgic impression, from the moment the lights go up, of a 1980s hairstyling salon. 

Alex Amini’s costumes for this play are stunning.

Don’t miss an opportunity to take in this outstanding stage production of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias at Upper Canada Playhouse.

As Truvy, the soul of Truvy’s Hair Salon puts it, “Laughter through tears is my favourite emotion.” 

The show runs until July 31. For tickets and information, contact the Playhouse at 613-543-3713 or go on line at www.uppercanadaplayhouse.com

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