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Theater Info for Maryland

Store Front Theatre Steel Magnolias

By • Dec 1st, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Steel Magnolias
The Store Front Theatre Company
The Store Front Theatre, Perryville, MD
Through December 2nd
2:30 with 20-minute intermission
$10
Reviewed November 30th, 2012

The Store Front Theatre Company is exactly that: a store front transformed into an unconventional theatre space. That theatre space is further transformed into a small beauty salon in a small Southern town through the use of actual salon equipment and supplies. The set and props are so detail perfect and the space is so intimate that it does feel like you have walked into Truvy’s little salon to spend a few hours for a few old friends. Those old friends, the cast of Steel Magnolias, present a warm and realistic bond that help crystalize the illusion. This was overall a very solid, and at times outstanding, initial offering from this new company, and it will be even more exciting to see what they are able to do as they grow.

The play opens as Truvy (Rebekah Latshaw) is auditioning Annelle (Christy Wyatt) for a position that has opened in her salon. From moment one, Latshaw is welcoming, Southern hospitality with a little bit of Southern spitfire at its best. Truvy does not get quite as much of the emotional or comic meat as some of the other characters in the piece, but Truvy is the glue that holds it all together. Latshaw likewise is careful not to pull focus but instead does a nuanced job of being the supporting glue for this cast. Annelle, on the other hand, may be one of the best and most difficult roles in the piece. She has to be both a different and the same character in every scene. Her character transforms continuously throughout the piece while always staying true to the warm and slightly naïve static characteristics of her personality. To play Annelle right requires amazing restraint and careful delivery. She needs to be warm, loveable, and real, even through her changes and extremes. Wyatt exceeds every possible expectation in her portrayal. She is absolutely flawless. Every look, every mannerism, and every syllable is both deliberate and natural.

The comedic heart of the group of ladies that gather at this beauty shop on Saturday mornings are Clairee (Dawn Stevens) and Ouiser (Debra McGuire). Clairee is always cracking jokes, with a serious undercurrent of trying to find a new identity in widowhood. Stevens does a beautiful job of allowing that real pain and growth to exist beneath the surface, while cracking up the audience consistently on the surface. Ouiser likes to come across a lot grumpier than she really is, and McGuire brings a refreshing new spin to this element of Ouiser, as she is often seen suppressing laughter. Whether conscious or simply because McGuire was super amused by herself, it adds a loveableness to Ouiser that is often deeper hidden in other portrayals of the role, and it works. There is no doubt why these ladies choose to keep company with McGuire’s Ouiser, no matter what crazy things come out of her mouth. McGuire also demonstrates an excellent skill in using timing, volume, and emphasis to really get the most comedic power out of a one-liner.

The emotional heart of the group should be M’Lynn (Melanie Bishop) and her daughter Shelby (Caroline Colino). We meet Shelby on her wedding day and find out that she is a diabetic and has been told that it will be unsafe for her to ever have children. As time continues, she disregards the advice, has a son away, and her kidneys begin to fail. While Bishop and Colino don’t necessarily give bad performances, their performances do pale in comparison to the other four actresses. With Bishop, it is especially disappointing when she doesn’t manage to pull out the emotional honesty needed for the last scene to really have its full impact. The other four women onstage make you believe that they have experienced death and are bringing either that reality or a great replication of it to the stage with real tears and honest intensity. Bishop, on the other hand, substitutes a lot of pacing and too much misplaced intensity for simplistic honestly. Whether an acting or directing decision, her last scene just slightly misses the mark.

There are a few other minor missteps in the technical aspects of the production. The gunshots did not sound realistic, and, at times, sound effects obviously came from an opposite direction than the window that the characters looked out. Also, the scene changes were so lengthy that the audience actually started conversing loudly between scenes. However, overall, the show was well-staged; the set was top-notch, and the new theatre made good use of minimal lighting. This is definitely a theatre company worth keeping your eye on.

Cast

  • Annelle: Christy Wyatt
  • Truvy: Rebekah Latshaw
  • Clairee: Dawn Stevens
  • Shelby: Caroline Colino
  • M’lynn: Melanie Bishop
  • Ouiser: Debra McGuire

Designer

  • Director: Dane Hutchinson

Disclaimer: The Store Front Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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