Robert Harling’s 1987 dramady “Steel Magnolias” is meant to pull both laughter and melancholy from an audience. Ever since it was adapted into a film in 1988, the play been a favorite for community theaters to produce.
In some ways, director Lee Ann Payne captures that essence in Los Altos Stage Company’s current production, but there are also some things that feel off. Among them are Sharon Peng’s costumes. Harling’s script calls for bride-to-be Shelby (a sympathetic Michelle Skinner) to wear pink.
“It’s my color,” she says several times, and she even wears pink eye makeup to prove it. Yet from the audience it appears that many of Shelby’s clothes her are peach rather than pink.
Truvy’s Beauty Spot is the center of town for the ladies of Chinquapin, a fictional northwestern Louisiana parish. Truvy’s is a place to for them to both nurture friendships and vent about conflicts in their own lives.
Truvy’s first-act costume also seems wrong. Truvy (a finely etched performance by Cindy Weisberg) enjoys gaudy clothes, but she’s also proud of her figure. Yet her her Act 1 outfit her is such a mismatched combination of flowing blues and purples that not even a flower child would be caught dead wearing it.
Clairee (Christine Wait) is the mayor’s widow, but Peng dresses her in a bright turquoise jacket and purple blouse, a peculiar combination not befitting of her standing in the community.
Scenic designer Seafus Smith has created an attractive but expansive beauty shop. When one cast member sits on a couch on the right side of the stage and the person she’s talking with sits at the manicure station at the far left, audiences may feel as if they’re watching a tennis match.
The cast of six all does a fine job of making their roles believable, although Amanda Nguyen as Annelle, an 18-year-old who is new in town, is a bit of an enigma. In Act 1, she seems frightened and desperate for a job, which Truvy gives her. By Act 2, Annelle has become a born-again Christian, and Nguyen expresses this change by acting stiffly.
Patricia Tyler, as the cantankerous Ouiser, doesn’t make an appearance until the end of Act 1. Wearing a casual shirt and jeans, she saunters in and immediately starts complaining. Tyler does crabbiness well, and she and Clairee get into a heated exchange in the second act that’s fun to watch.
The play takes place over three years, and while it deals with some harsh realities, humor often comes through, as when Shelby describes her two favorite shades of nail polish: “Blush and bashful – both shades of pink.”
“Steel Magnolia” runs through June 12 at Bus Barn Theater in Los Altos. Tickets are $32 -$40 at www.losaltosstage.org or 650-941-0551.
All COVID protocols are being followed, and masks are required inside the theater.