Steel Magnolias at The Wick

Cast of Steel Magnolias from left to right Sally Bondi (Cleiree Belcher), Robin Proett Olson (Ouiser Boudreaux), Aaron Bower (M’Lynn Eatenton), Patti Eyler (Truvy Jones), Linda Farmer (Anelle Dupuy-Desoto), and Alison McCartan (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie) Courtesy The Wick Theatre

Cast of Steel Magnolias from left to right Sally Bondi (Cleiree Belcher), Robin Proett Olson (Ouiser Boudreaux), Aaron Bower (M’Lynn Eatenton), Patti Eyler (Truvy Jones), Linda Farmer (Anelle Dupuy-Desoto), and Alison McCartan (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie) Courtesy The Wick Theatre

The Wick Theatre (formerly the Caldwell) in Boca Raton launched its new production of “Steel Magnolias” on Friday, April 3. It will run through April 20 with matinees and evening performances. Times and tickets are available online at www.thewick.org.

“Steel Magnolias” is a heart-warming depiction of the strong and timeless bonds of friendship among a group of women in Chinquapin, a small (fictional) town in Louisiana. It portrays how they come together to enjoy the good times with wit and humor and support one another through the sorrows. It demonstrates the meaning of the title since they are as tough as steel and as fragile as a magnolia blossom.

No men appear onstage in the play but male characters in roles of families, friends and lovers of the six women who gather at Truvy’s (Patti Eyler) beauty salon take on lives of their own through the women’s frequently sardonic descriptions.

The cast at the Wick is well balanced with two quibbles, Aaron Bower as M’Lynn Eatenton seems to be not much older than her bride-to-be daughter, Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, played by Alison McCartan. And, the range of southern accents was initially disconcerting to the ear but that does tend to pass as one travels deeper into the story.

The timing of the repartee among the women was a little slow at the outset and audience reactions were intermittent with spotty laughter but the deliveries corrected as the play progressed.  In the post-intermission scenes cast members were tightly on point as the play moved from pizzicato jocularity to shared intense pain.

Sally Bondi as Clairee Belcher and Robin Proett Olson as Ouisier Boudreaux delivered upbeat and dour humor respectively. Linda Farmer as Anelle Dupuy-Desoto pulled off a convincing and amusing conversion from lost soul to born-again Salvationist.

Most gay audience members, even those who have never seen the play or the movie, are probably familiar with Clairee’s quoting her gay nephew’s definition of gay men, “All gay men have track lighting and all gay men are named Mark, Rick or Steve.” The line got the greatest response from the audience especially as the dialogue continued to Ouisser obliviously sharing that her grandson had recently recommended track lighting at her home.

The transition from humor to sorrow was seamless and brought tears and sniffles to many in the audience as the women came together to support M’Lynn in her grief at her daughter’s death. These strong and humorous individuals responded as one in sharing their friend’s loss.

The play is powerful and the Wick’s production is very good. The strong cast and direction make it a moving experience. The lighting, staging, costumes and sets come together to make it memorable.

The play was written by Robert Harling based on a short story he wrote about his sister’s death from diabetic complications in pregnancy.

According to Wikipedia, the play first opened at the WPA Theatre in New York City in 1987 and moved to the Lucille Lortel later that year. It ran for almost three years and closed after 1,126 performances. The Broadway debut opened at the Lyceum Theatre in April 2005 and closed four months later after 23 previews and 136 performances. In 1989 a film version directed by Herbert Ross was released.

The Wick Theatre and Museum is located at 7901 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton. More information and tickets are available at 561-995-2333 or www.TheWick.org.


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