With its proximity to Hollywood and famed producer/owner Garry
Marshall’s name attached, the Falcon Theatre has developed a knack
for attracting celebrities to its stage.
Unfortunately, the uneven offering of “Steel Magnolias, playwright
Robert Harling’s ode to Southern female camaraderie, is evidence star
turns alone don’t always make a production.
Set in Truvy’s small-town hair salon sometime in the 1980s and
peopled with a bevy of stereotypical Louisiana women, Harling’s
script plays like an uncomfortably dated sitcom that never made it
out of pilot season. Equally unsettling were dialogue stumbles,
giving the impression that director D. Lynn Meyers and her ensemble
needed another week of rehearsal despite their masterful use of the
audience as the salon’s mirrors to make eye contact with one another.
Beth Grant’s Truvy, a pantsuit-wearing Mother Earth figure,
proffers down-home, corn-fed philosophy while teasing the heck out of
every follicle in the joint. Her newly hired assistant, Annelle,
frenetically played by Madison Dunaway, has moved to town to escape a
troubled domestic past. Next up is the husky-voiced and venerable
Ruta Lee as Clairee, the recently widowed mayor’s wife. Lee has an
enjoyable, if not predictable, grip on this grand dame while
unarguably laying claim to the loveliest of Diana Eden’s costume
On the flip side, Kathryn Joosten, recognizable as the president’s
stoically dry secretary on “The West Wing,” explores deliciously
caustic territory as Ouiser (yes, Harling’s character names get
pretty strange), the town’s curmudgeon with a heart of gold. Karen
Valentine, of “Room 222" fame, plays M’Lynn, a middle-aged mother
dealing with marital stagnation and her daughter’s physical maladies.
Granted, each person handles tragedy differently, but Valentine’s
portrayal of cautious reservation plays more like perpetual
Faring more nicely is Beth Anne Garrison’s subtly struggling take
on Shelby, whose eventual medical problems veer Harling’s story line
toward the maudlin and melodramatic.
Lew Abramson’s one-piece set displays every aspect of Truvy’s shop
while Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound effects (phone calls, offstage
gunshots, a radio with volume control problems) are flawless. Most
likely, any remaining kinks will work themselves out with additional