As Truvy says, laughter through tears is my favorite emotion, even though it’s not an emotion. But, the idea is there, and in The Green Room’s Steel Magnolias, so are the laughter and the tears.
The play follows the lives of six women through a couple of years or so, as told by way of their time in Truvy’s beauty shop. And, the plotlines often center around Shelby, a diabetic who is getting married, is later having a baby and, even later, about to undergo a kydney transplant with her mother as the donor.
The film is one of my emotional favorites, with a special place in my mind and in my heart. And, while I don’t like comparing a stage version with its film version and vice versa, I expected to struggle with this production, with the film’s characterizations so solidly engraved in my mind. And, it did take some time to get used to The Green Room’s portrayals.
The first to win me over was Colleen Winters as Shelby. Her portrayal is so un-assuming, so just being that she’s immediately likable and believable. It didn’t take long for me to think Julia who? Winters carries enough un-forced pathos in her performance that it’s easy to be moved to tears when the most emotional points of her story line arise.
The second to erase the movie’s character from my mind, and only because she portray’s the character with the latest entrance to the stage, was Dee Canfield as Ouiser. To be honest, her delivery is so odd, so staccato, that it could easily come across as forced. But, it’s not. Her energy matches the energy of the character. And, it’s so odd that it’s amusing, and likably so. The best moments of the show are when Canfield enters the stage, with the second best simply being her presence in the room.
If I had to pick a weak one of the bunch, it would be Kelly Lorenz, who portrays Annelle. Her formal training as a Musical Theatre major shows, and it’s somewhat of a weakness. Let me stop and say Lorenz is not bad, but any means, just a bit distracting. While the rest of the cast is simply being their characters, Lorenz seems to be trying too hard. Her Annelle lacks sincerity and comes across as acted. This works, however, when Annelle embraces her faith wholeheartedly. I’d bet we all know at least a few people in our local church who have that breathy, overly-done delivery, almost putting on airs as a Christian, if I may say. Lorenz nails that part of her character. It would benefit her just to relax into the character the rest of the time.
Pamela Crouch’s Truvy may be the most natural portrayal of a character I’ve seen from Crouch to date. Not over the top. Not silly. She just delivers the lines as if they were her own.
The same goes for Angela Elliott’s M’Lynn. She’s a bit too natural, though. I enjoy Elliott’s performances, those that I’ve seen. She tends to present characters without any pretension, which I like, but also with not quite enough energy. She’s good, but could be great if she’d take her acting up a notch.
And we can’t forget Lisa Kahn’s Clairee. While she stumbled on her lines several times the night I attended the performance, it’s forgivable thanks to her delivery throughout the show. Kahn’s portrayal is arguably the closest protrayal to that of her character in the film. It’s actually nice to have one character portrayed so familiarly. But, that’s not to say Kahn is channeling Dukakis. This character is still her own, and well played.
Steel Magnolias runs April 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. and April 26 at 2:30 p.m. Performances are at Harrison Hilltop Theatre, 1601 Harrison Street, Davenport. Tickets are available by reservation - (563) 650-2396 - or, if you’re lucky, at the door.