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A Sturdy Bouquet Of ‘Steel Magnolias’

Jeremy Rommel, a student at Westfield High School, reviews "Steel Magnolias" performed by Osbourn High School.

Molly Donahue as M'Lynn, Anissa Felix as Truvy, Tiffany Byrd as Clairee and Carley Wilson in Osbourn High School's Steel Magnolias (Courtesy of Osbourn High School)

The scissors are sharp, the combs have been washed, the curlers and shampoos are ready to be applied, the open sign has been placed upon the door — and there’s not a man in sight! These are the perfect conditions for drama, and a great deal of comedy, to unfold in a beauty salon in Robert Harling’s 1987 off-Broadway play “Steel Magnolias.”

“Steel Magnolias” The play chronicles the lives of six women as they meet periodically in a northwest Louisiana beauty salon owned by Truvy (played by Anissa Felix). In the salon, the women develop a strong bond as they discuss their lives: Annelle’s (Carley Wilson) illegal marriage to a deadbeat husband, Shelby’s (MaryBeth McIvor) possible complications with pregnancy because of her diabetes, and Shelby’s mother M’Lynn’s (Molly Donahue) decision to donate her kidney to her daughter. Ultimately, the women find that they can always rely on each other. Whether it be for heartfelt advice, shelter and comfort, or a good belly laugh, the women find solace in each other when the outside world has them retreating to Truvy’s Salon.

Osbourn High School’s production of “Steel Magnolias” was successful at making the difficult shifts from drama, to comedy, to drama and then back again. The cast’s willingness to commit to realistically conveying mature themes and topics made the production both captivating and sincere.

Donahue was superb in her portrayal of the motherly and elegant M’Lynn. Her performance, which culminated in a teary monologue about the loss of her daughter, seemed natural, and the relationships she helped build, especially the one between herself and her daughter, made it easy for the audience to become engaged in the story.

Meanwhile, the comedic performances of Tiffany Byrd (as Clairee) and Felix (as Truvy) helped to lighten the mood during heavily dramatic moments, as well as to coax laughter from the audience. Although the cast did well in committing to Southern accents, at times some of the dialogue seemed rushed, which might have inhibited the development of some nice moments.

Overall the actresses did a fantastic job of creating great moments by playing off of and reacting to each other’s characters. As a result, the strong emotional bond among the six women was made apparent in Osbourn’s production.

The amount of detail in the set was astounding. From the rows of bottled hair products, to the waiting bench by the window to the sink with actual running water, every detail helped add to the atmosphere of the 1980s-era salon. Another enjoyable aspect was the original music by Nick D’Elia, which was used to punctuate important moments with thoughtful melodies and smooth rhythm guitar.

The closing show of Osbourn’s production of “Steel Magnolias,” with its versatile acting and detailed set, proved there’s a lot more to beauty salons — and the women who populate them — than might meet the eye.

By Washington Post Editors  |  October 29, 2008; 8:30 AM ET
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