Weston presents steely and warm version of “Steel Magnolias”

Photo by Rob Aft

WESTON, Vt. – On Aug. 20, 2022, Weston Theater Company continued its 86th season with Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” in their Playhouse at 703 Main Street in Weston, Vt. It will run through Sept. 4.

Based on his experience with his sister’s death, the comedy-drama, set in the 1980s, takes place in fictional Chinquapin Parish in northwestern Louisiana. It is about the unshakable bond between two generations of women who are “as delicate as magnolias but tough as steel.” The action centers around a beauty parlor where the women regularly meet, and it covers events over three years as the women change and cope with conflicts, but remain friends. This production fits well into this season’s theme of belonging, as the six women find family in friends and their own places in the world. Director Sarah Elizabeth Wansley says, “It’s especially joyful to tell this story as we climb out of the pandemic when we are all seeking these kinds of neighborly spaces.”

The play first appeared Off-Broadway March 28, 1987. It had a Broadway debut April 4, 2005. A film adaptation was released in 1989 with Julia Roberts winning the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Shelby in the film.

Wansley is making her Weston directing debut with “Magnolias.” She is currently BOLD Associate Artistic Director at Northern Stage in White River Junction. She has delivered quite a show, offering a fresh take on an old gem with a superb and diverse cast that updates the production without losing its sense of time and place. She has skillfully guided the well-credentialed cast and crew to create the world of Turvy’s Beauty Salon in which all the drama and humor takes place. The technical aspects that surround the action are faultless. The set, by scenic designer Regina García, visible upon entrance to the theater, is excellently detailed with such things as the shampoo and hair product bottles, hair dryer, styling chairs, and even framed licenses on the wall. It immediately invites you into the warm world of the salon even before the show begins. At the same time, and at various places in the play, a cleverly mixed compilation of familiar ‘80s tunes play to set the tone and add to the nostalgia. The show starts with Nyla Sostre, as a prospective new employee, accompanying herself on a guitar and singing, “Hit the Road Jack.” It transitions us brilliantly into the action of the play.

Photo by Hubert Schriebl

Three of the six women cast, Amy Van Nostrand, Thursday M. Farrar, and Dorothy Stanley, have played at Weston before. New to this theater are Sostre, Almeria Campbell, as the salon owner, and Lexi Lapp. All have impressive prior credits too numerous to list here. They form a perfect ensemble, transitioning as the dialog moves quickly between the reality of sadness and loss to the often snappy and sarcastic humor that keeps them all going even through the tragic ending. Farrar said in an interview that, “Life goes on, that’s a beautiful thing.”

Kudos to Wansley and Weston for their commitment to diversity. For tickets or for more information you may call the box off at 802-824-5288 or access the theater at www.westontheater.org.

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