BY DEB MCSHANE
It’s the right play at the right time at the right place: Steel Magnolias is opening Thursday, Oct. 27, at Shoestring Theatre in Lake Helen. In our post-pandemic, post-Hurricane Ian upside-down world, the bittersweet humor and the crackerjack dialogue of this iconic tragicomedy will lift your spirit and melt your heart.
The action is set in Truvy’s beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are “anybody” come to have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken, wisecracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the town’s rich curmudgeon, Ouiser (“I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a bad mood for 40 years”); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader, M’Lynn, whose daughter, Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a “good ol’ boy.”
Filled with hilarious repartee and not a few acerbic but humorously revealing verbal collisions, the play moves toward tragedy when, in the second act, the spunky Shelby (who is a diabetic) risks pregnancy and forfeits her life.
The sudden realization of their mortality affects the others, but also draws on the underlying strength — and love — which give the play, and its characters, the special quality to make them truly touching, funny and marvelously amiable company in good times and bad.
Director Deborah Jean McShane has gathered the crème de la crème of Central Florida’s talent pool, both the ingenue types and the well-seasoned leading ladies.
Skyla Sollowen plays Annelle with a startling honesty and fresh-faced sweetness. Sara Humbert is Truvy, like you’ve never seen. Sally Daykin plays Ouiser as the grande dame of the world, cavorting with her longtime friend Clairee, portrayed by master storyteller Cheryl Floyd. Laurie Lawrence is M’Lynn, the kindhearted mother of Shelby, played by Megan Boisvert, the young girl who would “rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”
The production team includes stage managers Nancy Ballesteros and Michelle Skiles, set designer Bob Sollien, and sound tech Nadia Ballesteros.
Steel Magnolias runs Oct. 27-30 and Nov. 3-6 at Shoestring Theatre, 380 S. Goodwin St. in Lake Helen.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students (student tickets are only sold through the box office). Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 386-228-3777, or go online to ShoestringTheatre.net.