Featured from left to right are characters Annelle (Heather Galli), Truvy (Damaris Divito), M'Lynn (Mary Moore), Ouiser (Janice Leone), Clairee (Carolyn Ford Compton).

STEEL MAGNOLIAS by Robert Harling. Directed by Ann Kuchins. Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Blvd. Foster City, CA 94404. 650-349-6411 or October 22 – November 8, 2008


After mounting a four star hit with Oklahoma, their first production of their 69th (count them 69) season, the very competent Hillbarn Theatre has come up with a three star winner with Steel Magnolias. It is a women’s play filled with dialog and little action requiring character definition within ensemble performance. Hillbarn’s six women ensemble invests their characters with individuality that raises a smile, evokes sympathy and will create a lump in your throat.

Robert Harling's play had a successful Off Broadway run in 1987 and was a real winner when it appeared as a 1989 movie with and all-star cast of Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts. It is set in a Chinquapin, Louisiana hair salon and the six women spend over two hours talking about their past and present lives, gossiping, sharing hopes as well as recipes and get heir hair done. The six characters (alphabetically) are Shelby (Alexandra Bogorad), Clairee (Carolyn Ford Compton), Truvy (Damaris Divito), Annelle (Heather Galli), Ouiser (Janice Leone), and M'Lynn (Mary Moore),

Svelte Damaris Divito gives an energetic commanding air as vivacious Truvy, the owner of the hair salon. Heather Galli’s Annelle gives the right dollop of insecurity as the new girl on the block and her transformation to a born-again Christian is a marvel. Diminuative Alexandra Bogorad exudes hope, desire and love as the diabetic, soon to be wed Shelby and her bond with Mary Moore as her mother M’Lynn unfolds in stages with palpable chemistry. This is the emotional core of the play but it is Carolyn Ford Compton as Clairee and Janice Leone as Ouiser who is forever warring with M’Lynn’s husband that adds spark and great comic timing to the evening.

The story line unfolds slowly with a timeline of about 2 years divided into two acts and four scenes. Between the first and second scenes, Lee Basham’s perfect hair salon set occupying the full stage transforms from springtime to Christmas with the hanging of decorations. The writing cleverly defines the change in time and director Ann Kuchins paces the action accordingly as the six make their entrance and exits.

Even though it is an evening for the “girls” there is a touch of universal appeal and some one line zingers have the audience erupting in laughter.( Ouiser: Don't try to get on my good side, Truvy. I no longer have one!”) Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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