Steel Magnolias shows strength

Leslie Silverman

“Steel Magnolias,” the latest offering at the Black Hills Play House offers a slow moving drama interspersed with bits of comedic charm.

Taking place in a Southern hair salon, the story touches on serious topics like mental health, childbearing, gender issues and death yet manages to uplift its audience by the touching friendship and enduring support the production’s six female characters bring to each other.

Steel Magnolias is a story that portrays women as pillars of strength, even in the midst of struggle, uncertainty and loss. 

Act One introduces the audience to each of the female characters. While slow at times, the tale progresses in a manner to create true personality development, essential for the striking drama that will unfold in Act Two. 

Truvy, played by Lera Zamaraeva, is a salon owner who delights in gossip as much as in making women look their best. Plagued by a husband who “hasn’t moved from the TV in 15 years,” Truvy stops at nothing to support her friends and, further, the value women bring to relationships. Her gossip is as incessant as her need for beauty, evident by witty one liners like, “Smile, it increases your face value.”

Annelle, played by Jacquelyn Kiefner, is the play’s chameleon. She adapts from a girl hiding a secret, to a reckless spirit, to a woman of God. Kiefner’s ability to play such a challenging role so convincingly is a credit to her acting talents.

Clairee Belcher, a woman who recently lost her husband, is unfulfilled, her identity wrapped up in that if her deceased husband. The portrayal by Debbie Minter, however, falls short in both mannerisms and accent.

Ouiser Boudreaux, a strong independent woman who has too fierce a bond with her dog, rounds out the secondary characters of the play. While her character is always complaining, she seems to know herself the most and is not afraid to own who she is. It must be noted that Siobhan Bremer’s portrayal of Ouiser is quite compelling and Bremer has an uncanny ability to make Ouiser a lovable character despite her hardness.

The play’s main characters are M’Lynn Eatonton and her daughter, Shelby. The pair reflects the typical mother-daughter relationship of hypercritical mother and dutiful yet slightly rebellious daughter. Emily Cherry does a great job of playing the elder woman. Kenzie Henderson’s role as the daughter, while overall adequate, seems forced at times. 

On its surface the play is about the close friendship of these six women. But the serious themes this story aims to tackle are daunting yet convincingly done. The play features no men, yet their role in relationships and the roles of the male and female is tackled by the play’s brilliant poignant lines such as: “They’re supposed to be helping this decade” or: “Men are supposed to be made of steel.” Yet while the audience is privy to the men in these women’s lives, it is the women who offer surreal strength and wisdom to one another and their families.

Each of these women will remind audience members of women in their lives. And while the story takes place in the 1980s, the subtext of each woman’s narrative is still very relevant today.

Steel Magnolias runs through August 25 at the Black Hills Playhouse.

User login