Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Steel Magnolias UpStage Theatre's fragrant rendition of Robert Harling's tale of small-town southern womanhood, Steel Magnolias, might succeed with some other actress playing beauty-parlor maven Truvy, but Lisa Schofield is, in a word, magnificent -- and reason enough to head to the Jewish Community Center for this show. It's refreshing to find such a centered performer, so at home in turquoise toreador pants, tight black sequined top and killer high-heel sandals. Truvy is the big mushy heart of this southern-fried comedy/drama, whose immense success has turned the play into a cult franchise. A tower of strength to the other women at her salon, she gets the show's best one-liners. Hard as press-on nails, she's a softie underneath, waiting for her "sofa slug" husband to rekindle romance and her two from-hell grown boys to settle down. With a voice like a whiskey sour and a star's presence, Schofield nails her role. Dottie McQuarrie's football-lovin' Clairee is close on Schofield's heels, giving the "first lady of Cinquapin, Louisiana" a highball-tinged touch of class. Sheri Lynn's haunted-rabbit Annelle blossoms in the second act when her character finds Jesus. Christiana Carroll's mean ol' Ouiser pulls back just short of over-the-top, which is too bad, because the town curmudgeon is an over-the-top character. The hankie-wringing drama comes from the illness of vibrant young Shelby (Alex Aurisch) and her combative yet loving mother M' Lynn (Ann Reese). The actresses' tentative approach saps the play, so by the final scene, when mom breaks down, we've stopped caring. Reese, though, finally comes alive at the end. And count on Schofield's Truvy to pull us back in and makes us care -- both about these six best friends and about the power of live theater. Through April 10 at JCC, 5601 S. Braeswood, 713-838-7191.

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