Saturday, July 21, 2012

A GOOD HAIR DAY By Beverly Creasey

Wrapping your hair in toilet paper when you sleep so you won’t ruin your do? Really? The outrageous women of Robert Harling’s STEEL MAGNOLIAS swear by it. Director Nancy Curran Willis’ smart version of the beauty parlor play runs through July 28th at the Next Door Center for the Arts in Winchester. Set your curls and your GPS. It’s worth the visit.

The wacky customers of Truvy’s salon don’t just have appointments. They have a field day gabbing and plotting and gossiping. Miss Truvy (a spunky Jackie Coco) loves “anyone with a past”---which is what she gets when Sarajane Mullins’ naive, dorky Annelle arrives, desperately needing refuge. Beth Gotha and Margaret McCarty provide the over the top comedy and Amelia Broome and Melissa Marie Walker deliver the tragedy.

I’ve seen STEEL MAGNOLIAS about a dozen times, including two this year alone. Theater companies choose the piece because it’s entertaining but more importantly it gives actresses of a certain age the chance to cut loose in juicy roles. How often do you see a script for six women? Mind you, it’s not Shakespeare but it is sweet and funny (in a silly, loopy vein) and it can be sentimental and moving. Thanks to a lovely performance by Amelia Broome as Walker’s distraught mother, you’ll have a lump in your throat despite yourself.

Set designer Brian Milauskas’ attention to detail is remarkable. Most productions simply mock up a beauty parlor but Milauskas paid attention to the text, specifically “the breezeway” mention. We can see where Truvy’s husband converted it into a salon. Kudos, as well, for Annelle’s hilarious curler and rod Christmas decorations which twinkle in Erik Fox’s lighting…for Bob Pascucci’s clever sound effects… and especially, to Magda Aliberti for her authentic ‘80s costumes, culminating in Broome’s red Christmas theme sweater and Annelle’s “handmade poinsettia earrings.”