‘Steel Magnolias’ Finds Laughs, Tears During Opening Night

The cast
photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By LILY TINOCO| Reporter

Theatre Palisades’ opening night of Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias,” produced by Sherman Wayne and Martha Hunter, takes the audience through a captivating whirlwind of emotions.

On Friday, January 10, champagne glasses circulated the lounge area of Pierson Playhouse as attendees mingled before the play.

Producer Wayne joined guests in the lounge and stopped to talk to the Palisadian-Post before attending to the stage.

“It’s always a lot of friends on opening night, I come out here and see a lot of familiar faces,” Wayne said. “It makes it really nice.”

Jean Sharp, one of the many familiar faces, shared that she has lived in the Palisades since she was 8 years old and has a lot of fond memories at the theater.

“I love coming here, I love live theater, it’s very inspiring to me,” Sharp said.

Shortly after, guests began to take their seats and were ready for the show.

“Tonight you might laugh, you might cry,” Wayne said to the audience. “This is a beautiful play, you’re going to have a great time.”

The play, set in 1988 in Louisiana, opens to two ladies getting to know each other in a salon.

Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Jessica Hogan), who just moved to Louisiana, is hired by Truvy Jones (Courtney Shaffer) to work in her beauty salon, and together they capture laughs as Annelle learns Truvy’s philosophy: “There’s no such thing as natural beauty.”

Eventually they are joined by M’Lynn Eatenton (Maria O’Connor), her daughter Shelby (Grace O’Neill) along with Clairee Belcher (Catherine Rahm) to get ready for Shelby’s wedding that afternoon. The ladies joke and bicker as the night goes on.

Suddenly Shelby has a hypoglycemic attack and a heavy silence fills the room. The ladies quickly work together to tend to Shelby, while the audience comes to understand the severity of Shelby’s disease.

O’Neill offers a strong, emotional performance and captures the audience’s heart as her character continuously longs for a future that might push beyond the limitations of her body.

The play then passes through time and unveils the heartbreak of loss and the joy of new life.

Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” was written in remembrance, in honor and as a way of coping with his sister’s passing of complications from diabetes. Theatre Palisades’ production captivates the audience as it follows a dynamic, all-female ensemble who collectively exude resilient strength through their character’s personal challenges and highlight the beauty of friendship.

“The cast works extremely well together, they’re very close,” Wayne mentioned to the Post. “This group of ladies have really come together to focus on the show and their part in it.”

Performances will run through February 16: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for students and seniors.

For tickets and reservations, call 310-454-1970.

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