On Stage

Southern Comfort

Getting real with Steel Magnolias

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

“If you’re bothered by the smell of hairspray, you’re going to want to avoid sitting in certain sections of the audience,” my plus-one and I were told by an usher as we made our way into the Mount Baker Theatre’s intimate Walton Theatre for a viewing of Steel Magnolias, one of the three productions showing through mid-August as part of the theater’s seventh Summer Rep season.

He wasn’t kidding. Within the first 60 seconds of the play—which takes place entirely in Truvy’s Beauty Salon in the small town of Chinquapin, Louisiana in the 1980s—the aerosol was being sprayed with reckless abandon.

Although we were sitting far enough away so that the fumes didn’t reach us, those sitting near the danger zone looked amused rather than alarmed by the energetic beautification that was going on at the hands of the salon’s namesake, Truvy, who was played with perfect southern charm by area actress Kathleen Sasnett.

To those of us sitting a few rows away from the fray, the no-holds-barred use of the hair product added another layer of realism to the story of a disparate group of women who gather at their favorite salon on a regular basis to gossip, share stories about their husbands and boyfriends and, when needed, step up to the plate to help each other overcome life’s many obstacles.

The whole play, in fact, rang true. Truvy and her new-to-town assistant Annelle (Emily Nash), really were styling the hair of patrons such as Clairee (Terry Sacks), Shelby (Crystal J. O’Brien), M’Lynn (Teri Grimes), and Ouiser (Sheila Goodwin). There was actual water coming out of the pipes of the hair-washing station, and the bangs that were teased higher than was proper were really, well, up there.

But, of course, the important ingredient that helped the play make the transition from page to stage was the way the actresses made it come alive. From Goodwin’s portrayal of the irascible Ouiser (pronounced “Weezer”) to Grimes’ flawless execution of a woman who’s afraid to lose her daughter—and does—to O’Brien’s depiction of a young woman who wants nothing more than to be a “normal” wife and mother, the women involved in this particular rendition of Steel Magnolias did much more than memorize lines and repeat them by rote; they inhabited their characters, and it showed.

While part of the credit surely goes to guest director Amy Attaway—herself a Southern belle—it’s clear the seasoned actresses put their all into making the play a success. Their accents were spot-on, and when they laughed and cried together, those emotions transferred directly to those of us watching the action from the sidelines.

During intermission, my date had informed me that Grimes had also played the role of Shelby’s long-suffering mother at a Bellingham Theatre Guild production of the play, and had posited that perhaps the women playing the characters of Ouiser and Clairee could’ve been switched in this production.

But as we wiped our eyes and got to our feet with the rest of the audience for a standing ovation following the final moments of Steel Magnolias, she grabbed my arm as she yelled to be heard above the din.

“I take it back,” she bellowed, wiping her eyes one more time for good measure. “Everyone was perfect! Just perfect!”

Skagit-Stack the Deck
More On Stage...
Minimizing Macbeth

When it comes to Macbeth, William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of war, murder and betrayal typically boasts large casts who share the heavy lifting required to tell the tale of a Scottish general who resorts to bloodshed in order to gain access to the throne. In iDiOM Theater’s 3MB—which…

more »
Evil Dead
A date with demons

A certain coworker of mine can be counted on to join me for theatrical displays that are more than a little out of the ordinary.

For example, she’s been my plus-one to shows sporting everything from performing cats to vampire bunnies, as well as dramatic productions featuring full (male)…

more »
Bellingham Burlesque
Not the same old song and dance

History lessons aren’t what audiences typically expect when they attend a spirited song-and-dance production, but when Bellingham Burlesque of 1927 shows Oct. 5-7 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center, that’s one of the many side benefits those in attendance will reap.

As part of the…

more »
MVHS Fall Concert

4:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Life of the Arctic Polar Bear

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Anyone for Stew?

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Seasonal Beers

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Birds and Plants

7:00pm|RE Store

Thriving in the Middle

7:00pm|Village Books

Jeremy Kahn Quartet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Scottish Dancing

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus


Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre


7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance


Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

see our complete calendar »

Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books CWWarrenMiller