Academy’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ proves the point…

…there’s a reason they call ’em classics. I submit Robert Harling’s play is one. No, it ain’t great lit. It’s melodrama. The characters are more type than complex beings. But, here it is some 30 years on and this play still sings. Particularly when the casting is spot on, as in the recent production by The Academy Theatre, the long running Atlanta institution that is now anchoring a very real renaissance in downtown Hapeville. Seriously, you need to seek them out, if you haven’t already.

Yes, the space is small – but that’s intimate. Yes, those damned columns are obtrusive – but that’s why the Theatre is currently running a capital campaign so they might take over an adjacent, more theatre friendly space. Frankly, I admire their pluck and determination and more often than not, they are putting up some darn good stuff.

“Steel Magnolias” absolutely falls into that category. It was ably directed Lyanna Schmidt – no small feat on a very small stage, with a cast of 6 – who also took the role of M’Lynn and ran with it. Kay Bohan as shop owner Truvy and Fracena Byrd as her protege Annelle gave us heart and well timed humor with the hairdos. Mary Anne Brannon’s Ouiser just about stole the show, as she is written to do. Kathryn Wood’s Clairee had the gravitas and was the soft spoken anchor of the madness. And the young woman at the center, Shelby, was most ably played by Meggie Foster McCann. The most lovely thing about this show and this cast was, for lack of a better word, their evenness …Know how, in some productions, one or two outstanding – whether good or bad – performances throws the whole off -kilter? No such worries here. Each of these lovely women was well cast, well played …well, you get the picture.

Well done, Academy.