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Dink O’NealWith its proximity to Hollywood and...

Dink O’Neal

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.

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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

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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

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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

designs.

On the flip side, Kathryn Joosten, recognizable as the president’s

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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

bitterness.

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

performances.


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