Review: 'Steel Magnolia' at Community Theatre at Woodbury

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critic's Circle

WOODBURY CT - “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”

‘Steel Magnolias’ opened the third season at Community Theatre at Woodbury this weekend and will continue next week at Woodbury’s Historic Town Hall. The all female cast was directed by the team of Erika Dorio (the doctor in last season’s ‘New York’) and Kathy Farrell and the well-coiffed ladies bring to life the very funny/sad story written by Robert Harling. 

“Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.”

“Kathika” wrote in their joint directors’ note that “the diverse personalities and struggles of these women of Chinquapin beautifully merge to create an unbreakable bond of friendship and love, which lives at the core of their strength and resilience, and enables them to endure and, ultimately, emerge through even their most frail moments.” That pretty much sums up ‘Steel Magnolias,’ a play that I never tire of seeing and for which I have memorized much of the dialogue.

“I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don’t see movies ‘cause they’re trash, and they got nothin’ but naked people in ‘em! And I don’t read books, ‘cause if they’re any good, they’re gonna make ‘em into a miniseries.”

The cast delivers these classic lines on the Woodbury stage that has been transformed into Truvy’s hair salon by a set designed by the directing team. It features lots of leopard print along with the requisite salon furniture. Kris Geddes worked hard on the costumes and props that completed the look. While scene changes covered by musical interludes were a bit long, lighting (by Bill Geddes) and sound (by Tom Greto) worked well.

“Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your face.”

Most of the ladies of the cast make their CTAW debut in this play. Marnie D’Uva brought to life the salon owner Truvy Jones while wearing a flattering big wig and tight pants. Clarise Ballesteros, who holds a bachelor's in psychology and minor in theatre, was very strong as the awkward Annelle. Teresa Moran, a veteran of Clockwork Rep and a volunteer with Shakesperience, played the sassy Clairee. Kathleen Elizabeth Tasman played Shelby’s mother M’Lynn Eatenton. Douglas Schlicher provided the voice of a radio DJ. 

“Ouiser, you sound almost chipper. What happened today - you run over a small child or something?”

It was fun to see Maureen Denver back on this stage in the role of the prickly Ouiser Boudreaux; kudos to her on another fine performance. Ms. Denver will be directing the next show scheduled at CTAW, ‘Almost, Maine.’ It was also a treat to see the lovely Ashley McCleod in the role of the medically fragile Shelby. She was wonderful as Heidi in TheatreWorks New Milford’s [title of show] and she was the standout in this cast of ladies. Her performance was much more than “thirty minutes of wonderful.” This special education teacher by day will be playing Gurt in “The Happy Elf” coming up at the Thomaston Opera House.

“I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

A bouquet of magnolias with a leopard print bow to the directing team, two “strong willed independent thinkers” that managed to work together to bring this wonderful story to the Woodbury stage. 

Photo courtesy of CTAW