Robert Harling’s paean to strong southern women may be formulaic but STEEL MAGNOLIAS works like gangbusters at Stoneham Theatre. Director Paula Plum’s spirited production (playing through this weekend) showcases a passel of Boston divas who know how to deliver a tearjerker. They’re outrageous, sassy and full of piss and vinegar.
You can get a whole lot more than an updo at Miss Truvy’s hair salon. Harling puts hilarious banter into the mouths of these babes and “bless their hearts” they execute punch lines as if they were mother’s milk. What’s more, there isn’t a strident southern accent in the lot. (Here’s credit where it’s due: Amelia Broome is listed as the dialect coach!)
Kerry A. Dowling is the formidable mother lion/gossip queen, holding court with a blow dryer. Lydia Barnett-Mulligan is adorable as her oddball acolyte, with Kathy St. George and Marie Polizzano as the mother and daughter who always agree to disagree. Plum puts a nice edge on their relationship, steering it clear of the treacle most directors get stuck in. Sheridan Thomas is plenty prickly as the grumpy curmudgeon but it’s Sarah deLima as the “smart ass” mayoral widow who is the glue (or should I say gel) that holds them all together. DeLima’s barbs are so elegantly proffered, you think she hasn’t said what she’s actually said.
I’m not a real fan of the script but Plum and company tease out a warmth and camaraderie I didn’t know were there. Color me pleased!