Review: Life can be wonderful

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By Kirsten Laskey

Life can be wonderful and the Olions Thespian Club proves it through their production of "Steel Magnolias."

The leads in the play - Truvy Jones (Anna Hodgson), Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Kelly Greeff), Clairee Belcher (Brianna Pilon), Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Emily Breiner), M'Lynn Eatenton (Erin McClure) and Ouiser Boudreaux (Andrea Shisler) - may like to gossip and spend a little too much time in the local beauty parlor, but they teach the audience not only to appreciate life but to seize every opportunity to experience it fully. It may be risky but it is worth it.

As Shelby says, "I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."

The play begins with preparations of Shelby's marriage to Jackson Latcherie (Calen McKenzie). While Shelby's brothers and father fire loud gunshots to frighten away birds in a tree, Shelby and her mother get their hair done at Truvy's beauty shop. In addition to meeting free-spirited Shelby and her practical, fussing mother, M'Lynn, the audience is introduced to Truvy, a good ol' Southern gal; wisecracking Clairee, mousy newcomer to town Annelle; and ornery, sour Ouiser.

The women take teasing jabs at each other and engage in minor squabbles but what is most significant is how strong their friendship is with each other. They ride the highs and lows of life together, whether it is a divorce, marriage, a new baby or death, all of which occur during the course of the play.

I've seen this play performed on a local stage before. In that particular production, everything took place solely in Truvy's beauty shop. While the beauty shop is still the main setting for the Olions' show, the audience also sees other parts of the small, Southern town where the women live. Audience members are taken to the church where Shelby and Jackson get married and they see the town streets at Christmas time.

Not only do the Olions step outside the beauty shop, but they walk off the stage and roam throughout Duane Smith Auditorium. The entire theater gets to be a part of the action.

This play is very well known; in addition to being performed on the stage, the story made it to the big screen, too. So it is nice to see the Olions throw in some twists, transforming this popular play into their own creation.

Shisler, as Ouiser, shines as one of the standouts in the cast. From her frumpy clothes to her frizzled beehive hair do, Shisler seems to effectively capture Ouiser's eccentric qualities. She also shows underneath all of Ouiser's grouchiness, she is all loving.

Another standout in the play is McClure as M'Lynn. Pretending to be middle-aged mom with grown kids can't be an easy thing for a teenager to pull off. But McClure does a great job.

The beauty shop set is also wonderful. It's especially great to see the plastic pink flamingos outside the beauty parlor showing off their feathers in the summer before wearing tiny Santa hats for Christmas.

"Steel Magnolias" will run at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Duane Smith Auditorium. Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors, and $7 for thespian cardholders.