New York City Theater
Must we? In the poorly directed and irritating revival of Robert Harling's 1987 "Steel Magnolias," the southern ladies (Truvy, Annelle, Clairee, Shelby, M'Lynn and Ouiser) who gather in Truvy's beauty salon, first in preparation for Shelby's wedding then as a safe haven, are not cliches. They have specific quirks and real personal problems, ranging all the way from evangelicalism to disease and death. We laugh! We cry!
But the production is leaden. As my companion said, it's as if director Jason Moore threw up his hands and let the actors fight for their own turf. They haven't been forged into an ensemble, although Lily Rabe, Marsha Mason, Rebecca Gayheart and, of course, Frances Sternhagen give idiosyncratic performances.
The usually excellent Christine Ebersole, however, is unconvincing, looking at once both too sophisticated and, in a truly ugly final costume, as if she stepped out of an Ozarks calendar. But at least she can act, which can't be said about Delta Burke who has no sense of stage timing.
-- David A. Rosenberg
April 20, 2005