Boone Dog Productions, The Nest on Granville Island, until March 8th
My Two Cents
Steel Magnolias, served up by the newly formed Boone Dog Productions, is warm and sweet as Cuppa Cuppa Cobbler. Robert Harling’s popular play about a group of Southern women is a lovely offering about the bond between women: the strength of friendship and especially the love of a mother for her child.
When the play begins, we are introduced to Truvy and Annelle, played by Sheryl Anne Wheaton and Ranae Miller, respectively. Wheaton is sensational as the sassy and soft-hearted beautician who runs her own salon. She is a delight to watch whenever she’s onstage, whether she’s speaking or reacting. She completely inhabits the role and makes it her own - no easy feat when the movie version was played by Dolly Parton. As new girl Annelle, Miller holds her own and flits about like a nervous hummingbird as she integrates herself into this tight-knight group, finding strength and calm as the show progresses. Lalainia Lindbjerg also gives a beautiful performance as M’Lynn, the overprotective mother who never stops worrying about her daughter, Shelby (Jaime Piercy). Gillian Barber carries herself with breezy elegance as the well-to-do former Mayor’s wife, Clairee. Chy has some of the show’s best lines as Ouiser, the grumpy old lady who loves to terrorize her friend’s husbands.
I can’t say enough good things about Francesca Albertazzi’s set. It’s thoughtfully and meticulously designed. The minute you walk into the theatre, you are there in Truvy’s Beauty Salon. There’s even an actual pot of coffee filling the room with aroma, not to mention liberal amounts of hairspray - it’s very nearly an immersive experience (if you’re sensitive to scent I’d recommend sitting closer to the back). Chris Sinosich provides an array of era-appropriate 80’s outfits, with the Christmas sequence being a particularly garish delight.
There’s hardly anything to complain about here. The Southern accents are all on point, though a few of the wigs are a bit unfortunate. Director Shel Piercy has done an admirable job of streamlining all the beauty shop “business” (curlers, hair-washing) to make it feel naturalistic and not at all distracting. I felt as though the pace dragged somewhat in the middle, but that might have more to do with be the play itself than the direction. The show isn’t really belly-laugh funny, but there’s plenty of chuckles to be had consistently throughout the entire thing. And there are, unsurprisingly, tears as well.
It’s great to see such a powerhouse selection of Greater Vancouver’s women onstage in such a beautifully intimate show, especially when the production values are so high. Go see it with a woman you love - a treat like this is worth sharing.