Driftwood Players

"Steel Magnolias" May 1991

By Robert Harling, Directed by Bill Davis

From Left: Phyllis Shrauger: (Clairee Belcher) Bill Davis: (Director) Margaret Tingwall: (Truvy Jones) Nancy Jones: (Annelle Dupuy-Desoto) Pat Stevenson: (Ouiser Boudreaux)
Seated: Miriam Campbell: (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie) Jane Hansen: (M'Lynn Eatenton)

Pictures by Alan Stamwitz

Set Design: Ernie Ingram
Set Construction: Ernie Ingram, Don Stubb, Bruce Walloch, Jack Shrauger

From The Daily World Thursday, May 9, 1991

Gripping tragi-comedy unfolds at Driftwood

By Micki Colwell
Daily World Correspondent

    While the scents of hair spray, gel and nail polish waft through the theater, six powerful southern females, bonded through the affliction of one, become the "Steel Magnolias."

    The current Driftwood Players production opened last Saturday night to a sold out show and continues Fridays and Saturdays through the end of May. It would be advisable to get your tickets early.

    Tickets are available at Harbor Drug in Hoquiam, City Drug and Captain's Cove in Aberdeen and Valu Drug in Montesano. (This is a new outlet.)

    THE show is a beautifully written tragi-comedy that provides the six female actresses a distinct and individual character, a wide range of emotions, and an interaction that is both intimate and constant.

    Truvy Jones, played by Margaret Tingwall, is the beauty shop owner; Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Nancy Jones) is her new employee, while townspeople Clairee Belcher (Phyllis Shrauger), M'Lynn Eatenton (Jane Hansen) and Ouiser Boudreaux (Pat Stevenson) are frequent visitors.

    The plot unfolds around Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Miriam Campbell), M'Lynn's diabetic daughter. Shelby's wedding, pregnancy and untimely death are all discussed in the beauty shop, where all the action of the play takes place.

    The show, written by Robert Harling, a struggling New York actor, chronicles his own sister's death from complications of diabetes. His own family didn't know how to react when their personal tragedy was written as a comedy.

    But Harling explains, "My sister had this incredible sense of humor. That's what I want to capture for my nephew, her son, so he will see how dear his mother was."

    "Steel Magnolias" played on Broadway for many years and was made into a hit movie. This is one of those times, that the play is much more powerful than the movie. 

    There are no weak links. The cast works like a finely tuned ensemble, with timing, punch lines and cues, right on the money.

    Much of the credit goes to the director, Bill Davis. A pillar of the theater for 23 years, Davis is a veteran actor, scenic designer and director, with a gift for strong casting and the ability to give his players room to build their own characters.

    Truvy Jones is the colorful owner of the beauty shop or port as she calls it. A hair stylist by profession, Tingwall is perfectly cast as a flamboyant character, bubbling with enthusiasm, an almost a tongue-in-cheek approach to life and a charm that brings out her down-home lifestyle.

    Although relatively new to the theater, Tingwall has already played a wide variety of roles with maturity beyond her stage experience.

    Campbell is a newcomer to the Driftwood stage and shines as Shelby, the thirty something daughter, who frequents the beauty salon.

    She is about to be married as the play begins. Conflict later develops when she becomes pregnant, despite the warnings of her doctor and the concerns of her mother.

    Stunningly animated, completely at ease on stage, with a special sparkle, Campbell is captivating in her portrayal. There is a special closeness that she shows in her relationship to her mother, and a love of life that shines even in her body language.

    CAMPBELL teaches drama and reading at Miller and has a one and a half year old daughter, Hannah. I'm sure we will see more of this fine young actress.

    Nancy Jones is the timid Annelle, the new girl in town, who acquires a position at the salon after a separation from her husband.

    Although Jones is relatively inexperienced, she too tackles her role with sensitive timing and  attention to detail.

    Her character is rather complex, undergoing a metamorphosis from a seemingly naive newcomer, who rooms at a questionable boarding house to one whose life becomes totally enveloped in religion.

    Jones was last seen as Lenny in "Crimes of the Heart," and is a community health nurse who works with children.

    Shrauger plays Clairee, the widow of Chinquapin, Louisiana's former mayor. Of course, in real life she has been the mayor of Hoquiam since 1988.

    An active member Driftwood for many years, Shrauger seems to have lots of fun with this role of the sophisticated, socialite of the community. Her role provides a powerful sparing partner to the bulldog character of Ouiser, played by Pat Stevenson.

    Fast-paced dialogue and wonderful facial expressions, round out Shrauger's character.

    Stevenson, a wonderful character actress, plays the cantankerous, wealthy old widow, who seems to care more for her dog than for humans.

    She takes full advantage of her lines and is a master of timing. The delightful bantering between Clairee and Ouiser reveals a lifelong friendship, though each strives constantly to have the last word.

    Hansen is M'Lynn, Shelby's mother and is the most serious of the women. She displays strength and depth of character that she has not needed in her previous roles.

    The desperate love of her daughter, the typical bickering between the two and the final act with all the raw human emotion are all handled with a strong intenseness and insight.

    There was hardly a dry eye in the house as the curtain came down and the audience spontaneously rose to their feet for a standing ovation. This is a four star show.

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