Steel Magnolias

July 25, 2019

in Plays

Play (1987)
by Robert Harling

Directed by Paula Plum

Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Club Cafe
209 Columbus Avenue, Boston
July 19 – August 3, 2019

With Catherine Lee Christie (Truvy Jones), Lauren Elias (Annelle Dupuy-Desoto), June Kfoury (Chairee Belcher), Oye Ehikhamhen (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie), Liz Adams (M’Lynn Eatenton), Maureen Adduci (Ouiser Boudreaux)

Lauren Elias as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, Maureen Adduci as Ouiser Boudreaux, Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Jones, June Kfoury as Chairee Belcher, Liz Adams as M'Lynn Eatenton, Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie in 'Steel Magnolias'

Lauren Elias as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto
Maureen Adduci as Ouiser Boudreaux
Catherine Lee Christie as Truvy Jones
June Kfoury as Chairee Belcher
Liz Adams as M’Lynn Eatenton
Oye Ehikhamhen as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie
in “Steel Magnolias”
Photo: Courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

A melodrama wrapped in a comedy about a group of women in Louisiana who congregate at a hair salon and confront life, relationship and death.

Gathering at a hair salon run by Truvy (Catherine Lee Christie) are Shelby (Oye Ehikhamhen), a diabetic, and M’Lynn (Liz Adams), her mother, and a bunch of other women who carry on about their relationships with men and with one another. Truvy confronts issues about procreation and her mother, M’Lynn, worries about the choices she might make. Meanwhile, some of the others, including Annelle (Lauren Elias) and Clairee (June Kfoury), encounter unexpected changes in relationship.

The chatty setting of the hair salon gives this play the feeling of a conversational free-for-all, with the sense that these very different women somehow are all hard-boiled at the core. Certainly, M’Lynn is. She confronts, with steely determination, the choices that Shelby makes and does so with a combination of austerity, rigidity and ultimately resignation.

Shelby is optimistic and fiercely determined, which sets the inner drama that evolves within the outer, more lighthearted conversational setting of the hair salon. Shelby’s destiny and the response offered by M’Lynn provide the shape of the tensions that develop, while the meandering commentaries and smaller challenges of the anointed jury of fellow women offer the filler that creates the substance of the meandering dialogue that holds the drama in place.

The play is episodically witty, but portrays its characters as though they were consistently so. Intent on developing an array of distinctive character types, its main motif is the display of each of those unique flavors in relief against the others. Such characterological highlighting simulates wit in a reduced fashion by offering each distinctive character trait as amusingly distinct against the landscape of the crowd. The given impression is that each one of these is notably forceful.

Little narrative gimmicks like the constant hitting of a radio to make it work don’t really do that for the play itself. There is a fair amount of this kind of unnecessary verbal kicking of the tires in the writing that is meant to ensure the action can roll along when the effect is more to bang it into the curb.

In fact, the play of force is dominated in the dramatic development of M’Lynn who has to face the challenges offered by Shelby’s trajectory. In this role, Liz Adams does a very good job of negotiating the territory between tough nut and tautened vulnerability. It’s an interesting performance and her way of conveying that transition of character is subtly persuasive.

As Shelby, Oye Ehikhamhen has a radiantly infectious charm and a graceful demeanor that rises above the more guttural perambulations of the surrounding crowd. Both M’Lynn and Shelby convey this distinctive gracefulness, and Liz Adams and Oye Ehikhamhen rise to the occasion in rendering that.

In the more humorous and crowd-pleasing roles, Lauren Elias as Annelle, the new salon-sidekick, offers a folksy charm, and Maureen Adduci provides a robustly raucously angry but still funny schtick as Ouiser, an older woman who is not quite done with love.

The cabaret setting of this summer frolic offering by Hub Theatre makes for an intimately informal context. And, of course, Hub’s usual pay-what-you-can policy makes the outing for this sometimes charming, somewhat amusing, sort-of tearjerker with some nice performances, a pleasing option for a summer outing.

– BADMan

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