March 13 2013 12:00 AM

‘Steel’ powerful

Starlight Dinner Theatre founder Linda Granger must have had nerves of steel to not only stage a community theater production of “Steel Magnolias,” but direct and star in it as well. And, thanks to some quality acting, it’s a challenge that paid off.

The exposition-heavy story takes place entirely in a small-town Louisiana beauty shop. It begins with preparations for wedding and, 31 months later, ends with preparations for a funeral. In between, the ladies of Truvy’s (Granger) beauty shop deal with all manner of life issues. 

The acting styles of the cast members don’t always mesh perfectly, yet each performer had her strengths. Granger, who played Truvy eight years ago, is completely comfortable in her role.  She is every bit the sweet and funny stylist with whom one can while away an afternoon.

Marci Balogh is outstanding as Shelby Eatonton Latcherie, beginning the story as a self-absorbed, pampered bride and transforming into a completely selfless mother. Her chemistry with the rest of the cast is so solid that one would never guess that she wasn’t there from day one of rehearsals.

The real surprise is Tina Brenner as Shelby’s mother M’Lynn. Brenner’s performance is low-key throughout most of the play, but when she finally has her breakthrough breakdown, it is so unexpected and emotionally raw that it leaves the audience stunned.

While the piece is undeniably the stage version of a chick flick, the “other half” will be engaged nonetheless. After all, the setting of a beauty shop as a haven where women can speak freely is no different than the barbershop where men do the same. To believe that men don’t talk about family, life and loss is naïve and sells them short.

“Steel Magnolias”
Oct. 19- 27
Waverly East Intermediate School
3131 W. Michigan Ave.
Fridays and Saturdays: dinner 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m.
Dinner & show: $33 general/$28 seniors,students/$20 children
Show only: $15 general/ $10 children