Laughter Through Tears: “Steel Magnolias”

The Cast; Photo by Tim Gurczak

Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
By Robert Harling
Directed by Paula Plum

July 19 – Aug. 3, 2019
Club Cafe
209 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA
Hub on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Steel Magnolias is a theatre classic. It can be seen in fringe and community productions across the country. The 1989 movie starring Sally Fields and Dolly Parton has firmly cemented itself into the 80’s pop culture. The 2012 TV-movie starring Queen Latifah and, queen in her own right, Phylicia Rashad introduced a new generation to the story. It has survived well because of its timelessness. There will always be a need for safer-spaces where women can be themselves beyond the emotional and physical labors society demands from them. Hub Theatre’s production nestles into that need. 

Steel Magnolias is about the women of Chinquapin parish who frequent Truvy’s (Catherine Lee Christie) in-home beauty parlor. Shelby (Oye Ehikhamhen) celebrates her wedding, her pregnancy and all the stumbling blocks between and beyond in one of Truvy’s swivel chairs. Her mother M’Lynn (Liz Adams) and neighbors Clairee (June Kfoury), Annelle (Lauren Elias), and Ouiser (Maureen Adduci) support her and each other through life’s ups and downs. 

The cast takes a while to warm up but, when it does, it worms its way into your good graces. Christie is charming as Truvy. Kfoury is stalwart and strong as Clairee. Adduci is abrupt but generous as Ouiser. Annelle might bumble her way through the show but Elias takes to the character naturally. 

The breakout performances were delivered by Adams and Ehikhamen. They have great chemistry together and delivered nuanced performances independently. Their mother/daughter relationship is touching. Adams’ breakdown in the final scene had many of us in tears… Which turned into laughter once the dialogue picked back up.   

Some of the accents were consistent. Some of them were not.  

Club Cafe’s AC is turned all the way up. Even on a 98 degree day in a packed theatre near the bright stage lights, it was uncomfortably cold in there. (A fellow audience member wrapped herself in her table cloth to keep warm.) I recommend closed-toe shoes and sweaters. 

The wardrobe designs by Chelsea Kerl and wig mastery by Caroline Clancy are strong. This fringe production executes care for its beauty parlor environment.  The cast members aren’t experts but it is clear that rehearsals negotiated the danger of ruining expensive wigs (and cast appearances). 

Seeing this production brought back so many happy memories. I played Clairee in my high school’s 1998 production of Steel Magnolias. My short, platinum wig was so teased it reached the heavens. Even at 18, it was easy for me to fall in love with Harling’s brave, funny characters. I remember understanding that the jokes in the script were funny but I didn’t know why. Thanks to Hub’s production, I know why now.   

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