Fragile Strength in Keegan Theatre’s Steel Magnolias
“This is women’s territory,” proclaims one of the ladies in The Keegan Theatre’s production of Steel Magnolias, and yet there is something in its story of love and hardship that all can grasp, underneath all that hairspray.
Steel Magnolias, for anyone who has not seen the film adaptation, is about old friends meeting time and again in a Louisiana beauty salon to discuss their lives, their hopes and their problems. Besides entertaining gossip and banter, the main focus is on M’Lynn and Shelby, mother and daughter, as Shelby grows up, marries and has a dangerous pregnancy. Their friends support them as they go, and no one is unaffected by the loss at the end.
In Keegan’s production, M’Lynn and Shelby are played by real-life mother and daughter Sheri S. and Laura Herren. The younger Herren’s Shelby is pitch-perfect, simultaneously fragile and strong, confidently standing up to her mother and to her lot in life.
The chemistry between them is clear; when Shelby asks for her mother to trust her, it feels like you walked into the wrong room at a family party.
… The rest of the cast is spot-on, with Linda High’s portrayal of Ouiser — a crabby eccentric with words for any occasion — a highlight.
The set is a completely realistic half of a hair salon, created by set designer Trena Weiss-Null … even the sink seemed to work.
… All told, some great portrayals of women and the bonds between them make this production both laugh-inducing and heartrending.