"Laughter through tears" is the best way to describe Steel Magnolias at the Wilmington Drama League. We meet six strong women at Truvy's beauty salon, all in different stages of their life. Frank Bartowski has created a very small town feel with both the set of Truvy's salon and the interacting between the characters. Chinquapin, Louisiana is most certainly a place where everybody knows everybody's business and has a strong opinion about it. And the center of the town is Truvy (Kelly Porter Martin), since anybody who's anybody goes to Truvy's. She knows everybody's business, and is a sucker for gossip.
Annelle (Stephanie Smith) trying to concentrate on rolling the mother of the bride's (Rebecca Gallatin) hair, while Clairee (Cathy Ireland) finds something unusual in M'Lynn's purse! Photo credit Kristin Romero Photography.
From Kendra Eckbold's headstrong Shelby to Stephanie Smith's intimidated Annelle, all six of these women were expertly cast. I was especially impressed that it felt like we were watching a working salon on stage, since Stephanie Smith spends a good portion of the first scene shampooing everyone's hair, and then setting rollers. The journey that the women of Steel Magnolias go through takes the audience on a rollercoaster. The relationship that solidifies that Chinquapin is small town America is between Clairee (Cathy Ireland) and Ouiser (Ruth Brown). They pick at one another, dripping in sarcasm, but deep down Clairee and Ouiser are clearly dear friends. Ruth Brown's Ouiser is in a word perfect. She takes command of the stage, and you can't help but love her, even though she's a total grouch. She's the most loveable grouch you'll ever meet.
Ouiser (Ruth Brown) being Ouiser. Photo credit Kristin Romero Photography.
However, it's Rebecca Gallatin as M'Lynn who steals the show. We watch her grow in a short period of time from the mother of the bride with all of the wrong opinions, according to Shelby, to someone going through the worst pain you could imagine. Watching M'Lynn's heart break into a thousand pieces on stage, it's impossible to not be moved to tears. Steel Magnolias teaches us a lot of important things about life. Never underestimate the strength of women, there can never be enough shades of pink, and laughter through tears is sometime the best medicine.
M'Lynn (Rebecca Gallatin) trying to cope with all that has happened. Photo credit Kristin Romero Photography.
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