Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
Also see Garrett's review of Native Son
Mr. Harling wanted to share his observations of family and friends using humor to cope with more serious situations, and he captures the charm and humor of Southern women to a T. Taking place entirely in the beauty salon of Truvy (Kelly Stansell), the play revolves around M'Lynn (Christine Rogers) and her daughter Shelby (Tori Shue). Intermixed are salon regulars Clairee (Alicia Whitfield) and Ouiser (Nicola Lefler), and recent hire Annelle (a convincing and lovable Liz Webb, a standout in this cast). Over the course of a year of holidays, through heartache and humor, these six women prove themselves as delicate as magnolia blossoms, yet strong as steel.
I must make note that this entire production is working to overcome a challenge. Director Mia Peters had the unfortunate task of having to recast the role of Truvy two days before opening. Kelly Stansell stepped in but was still on book for the opening night performance I saw. No matter how much rehearsal had taken place prior to this change, there were bound to be some significant growing pains, so kudos go to Ms. Stansell, who was still a wonderful Truvy. And kudos to the rest of the cast and crew, who are living through the old adage, "the show must go on."
The play, though written over thirty years ago, does not seem dated. Its heart and humor still ring true. At one point Mr. Harling has M'Lynn quote Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Hopefully as this run continues, this production will will smooth out its wrinkles to bring the heartwarming and sometimes hysterical play more fully to life, and celebrate the strength we all have within.
Forest Moon Theater's Steel Magnolias runs through September 29, 2019, at Renaissance Centre, 405 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest NC. For tickets and information, visit forestmoontheater.org or call 919-435-9458.
Playwright: Robert Harling
Photo by: David Leone / Pictured: Liz Webb, Christine Rogers, Kelly Stansell, Tori Shue