Review From The House
READ IT • SEE IT • TASTE IT • LIVE IT
by Robert Harling
Director Shel Piercy
Boone Dog Productions
The Nest, Granville Island
Feb 14 to Mar 8, 2020.
Vancouver, BC: I loved seeing this celebration of female friendship and maternal love on Valentine’s Day. This holiday was instituted over 1500 years ago as a religious celebration to honour the martyrdom of St. Valentine. But today it has become a Hallmark holiday for couples to signify their love for each other through exchange of Valentine cards and gifts. At this time in contemporary society, when almost half of North American adults live alone or are single, and surveys show that one in three experience loneliness, it Is valuable to acknowledge the value of other positive social relationships as well as romantic love. Steel Magnolias does that.
A bond of deep friendship has developed among the women who gather in the beauty salon operated in her home by Truvy (Sheryl Anne Wheaton). Truvy has just hired an assistant, Annelle (Ranae Miller), who has recently moved to the town. Regulars at the salon are Clairee (Gillian Barber), wife of the former mayor, Ouiser (Chy), a grouchy neighbour, and M’Lynn (Lalainia Lindbjerg), whose daughter, Shelby (Jaime Piercy) has diabetes.
The story begins on the day of Shelby’s wedding when Shelby has a hypoglycemic attack while having her hair done. The women rally round her and M'Lynn and she recovers, but we learn that pregnancy would be life-threatening for her. Months later, Shelby has given birth, but as predicted, her diabetes worsened and she dies of kidney failure. Again we see how the support of her friends brings comfort to M’Lynn as she grieves the loss of her daughter.
Strong performances by the ensemble cast brought out both the humour and the pathos of the play. Harling's script lightens the sometime intense emotional moments with plenty of humour. As when Clairee points out that the only thing that separates us [women] from animals is our ability to accessorize, and later in response to Ouiser declaring that she must be destroyed, quips that Mother Nature is taking care of that.
This play was written more than 30 years ago but the themes of bonding and friendship are as applicable, if not more so, today. See this production, I enjoyed it a lot.