Theater Review | Thru Feb. 16 Chances are, most people have seen the film version of Steel Magnolias, the story of a group of Southern women who congregate in a beauty parlor and discuss their daily, often traumatic, trials - such as the life-threatening diabetes of one character. The stage version, now playing at Indianapolis Civic Theatre, is much the same as the movie, sans male supporting characters.

Renee Whiten (front) and (from right to left) Mimi Mathioudakis, Kriss Griffiths-Holm, Lydia Jurgen, Linda Charbonneau and Meghan Morrison in Civic"s "Steel Magnolias"

Having seen the movie many times, what struck me was a tidbit of information that I found in the program by Marilyn Martin of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. The author of Steel Magnolias is Robert Harling - a man. A story that has become the quintessential representation of the inherent need of women to come together to talk and share life"s problems - and the down-to-earth and realistic way in which it is portrayed - was penned by a man. The fact that he did it so eloquently is somewhat mind-boggling. Civic"s production is a pleasant foray into that world. The entirety of the action remains in Truvy"s beauty parlor, with its wood-paneled walls - very 1980s Southern. The cast does an admirable job portraying their respective characters. Kriss Griffiths-Holm as Truvy is the sage woman at the hub of everything. Her assistant, Annelle (Renee Whiten), is a mousy, naÔve youngster. Linda Charbonneau plays Clairie, the sweet grandmother figure. Meghan Morrison is a prim, almost stuck-up Shelby. Miki Mathioudakis as her mother, M"Lynn, is the epitome of strength, even in her weakest moments. And Lydia Jurgen plays everyone"s favorite old bitch, Ouiser, with panache. The Southern accents were a bit uneven, but the quaint colloquialisms slid out easily, and everyone clicked to create the nest of security that the beauty shop represents. Steel Magnolias continues through Feb. 16; call 923-4597 for tickets.

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