The Sheldon Theatre stage was transformed for its most recent play: what was once an empty space became a hair salon, filled with barber shop chairs, sinks, dryers and, of course, gossip. This could only mean one play: “Steel Magnolias.”
“Steel Magnolias” is a dramedy known by many due to the 1989 film that starred actors including Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton (the film came after the play). The stage production follows six women as they come and go from a hair salon in Chinquapin, La. They discuss weddings, babies, lazy husbands, death and the neighbor who continues to shoot birds that are landing in his trees. The characters are nearly as diverse as the topics that are covered: a widow who was married for nearly 50 years, two women with adult children, two young women and a wealthy curmudgeon who declares that she has only been in a bad mood for 40 years.
The women in Phoenix Theatre’s rendition of “Steel Magnolias” wowed with their ability to give performances that bounced between funny and sad, tears and laughs. As Heather Reynolds’ character Truvy declares: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
The roughly two hour play takes place in one setting: the hair salon, and spans a couple of years. The emotional driver of the show is the conversations between the six friends, all of which is done in southern accents.
Possibly the most impressive part of the production is that this is all done as hair is washed, curled, sprayed, primped, pinned and filled with baby’s breath. As someone who is barely able to use a hairdryer successfully, it was impressive to see the actors set hair without missing a cue or forgetting a line.
Director Jillynne Raymond has directed productions for Phoenix before but she took a couple of years off. In a news release she stated:
“When I heard that Phoenix had selected 'Steel Magnolias,' I know it was a script that was calling my name. I love strong characters that expose emotion to tell a story. The rawness of the human condition can unite us as a society; we can use a little of that right now.”
For more information, visit: www.sheldontheatre.org.
If you go ...
What: "Steel Magnolias'
When: 3 p.m .and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9; 3 p.m. Nov. 10
Where: Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St., Red Wing
How much: $16