Sunday, October 28, 2018

When Magnolias Keep On Shining

Review by Eva Louis

Fountain Hills Theater Inc Presents "Steel Magnolias" by Robert Harling, directed by Roger Prenger, produced by Leah Klein...
**************************************** My team lives in the world of film, fashion, arts, music, and entertainment.  Our schedule is full but when we have a few moments to stop, take a break, and take in a show, we always look for opportunities to support our community artists.  

Last night I had the chance to see a performance that was an all woman cast of six distinct characters full of personality, quirks, talents, and presence that literally oozed all over the stage and formed a reality all based on a single location.  What was brought to life, was an inner reality of the relationships between a group of women from a small town dealing with the everyday life between family and friends including circumstances that are uncomfortable and difficult.  Interlaced strategically however is the humor that makes the most difficult a little easier to handle and that which also reflects the wit and inteligence of their generational age differences.

If you've seen the film, "Steel Magnolias", then you will be familar with some of the storyline.  This stage performance was adapted to revolve around the single location, the beauty salon of Truvy Jones, character played by Angela Kabasan.  The stage was turned into a semi-working salon which helped to bring the salon to life which even included a working sink with running water and old fashioned hair dryer.  Truvy's character was strong and definitely an anchor to the show.  The part required her to be able to really do hairstyles while speaking her lines and interacting according to the circumstances presented by the other actors which included even dealing with a diabetic seizure like event which Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, played by Avery Volk, experienced as part of one scene where orange juice went strategically flying out of a plastic glass.  I was so into the scenes where Truvy was doing hair, I was crossing my fingers to make sure she got the hairstyles right since of course she was doing the bride's hair for her wedding in one scene.  It was enjoyable to watch it all happen and everyone stay in character no matter what was going on.

Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, character played by Sarah Brisco, was the outsider that was welcomed into the group by the women without being judged.  It was just expected and Sarah was able to pull off the part by adding in just enough reaction and insertion of lines timed perfectly to help with the comic relief which was definitely needed for the serious exchanges that occured throughout the scenes.

Clairee Belcher, character played by Hilary Hirsch, definitely owned her part of the story and it was great to see how she bantered back and forth with her partner on stage, Ouiser Boudreaux, character played by Noel Irick, to give it that "Golden Girls" feel with all the inuendo and quick witted responses that kept you on your toes and engaged just waiting to hear what they would say next.

Avery Volk, developed the Shelby character, with a depth and sassiness that carried all the way to the end.  She was able to portray the daugther - mother relationship with a realness that made you understand the challenges and obstacles she had to deal with based on her life choices.  The audience clearly connected with the seriousness that was dictated as you could hear a pin drop at several moments when critical information was revealed that propelled the story into sadness when the enevitable was shared.

One of the strongest scenes for me was when M'Lynn Eatenton, character played by Mary Pat Wallace, had the outburst where she described her feelings about the death of her daughter.  It was a poignant display that had been built up throughout the entire performance and this became a huge tipping point in the honest disclosure about the relationships M'Lynn had and if she could have changed things. It felt very viseral and large which evoked emotions in those watching.  The combination of the set-up between Shelby and M'Lynn was played well and really left the audience experiencing a variation of the same feelings.

It was a pleasure to watch all the characters interact and develop a cohesive presence and environment on stage.  As an audience member, it felt like we were eavsdropping on personal conversations that you might be walking by daily.  All I can say is what an awesome experience.

Thank you to the actors, stage production team, and the director for bringing this to life.  Definitely this deserves a two thumbs up.  And I'd go to watch it again, just sayin'.

One more showing on Oct 28th at 2 p.m. - Get your tickets at this link ==>