Category Archive for: ‘Flora Lynn Isaacson’

Steel Magnolias–A Sextet of Supportive Southern Women at Novato Theater Company

Shirley Nilsen Hall, Susan Zelinsky, Karen Clancy, Ashley McKenna (top row-standing); Laura J. Davies, Erin Ashe (bottom row-sitting) in Steel Magnolias.  Photographer: Mark Clark

 The Novato Theater Company currently presents Steel Magnolias, a story of love and trust among six very different women.  This 1987 play by Robert Harling has a title which suggests the female characters are as delicate as magnolias, but as tough as steel.

The action of the play centers on Truvy’s (Karen Clancy) beauty parlor in Chinquapin, Louisiana and the women who regularly gather there.  The drama begins on the morning of Shelby’s (Erin Ashe) wedding and covers events over the next three years.  We get a glimpse of the unlikely friendship between Clairee (Laura J. Davies), the mayor’s wife and Ouiser (Shirley Nilsen Hall), the town grouch; Annelle’s (Ashley McKenna) transformation from a shy, anxious newcomer in town to a good-time girl and then to a revival-tent Christian and Truvy’s relationship with a man in her family.  However, the main story line involves Shelby and her mother, M’Lynn (Susan Zelinsky).

Experienced Director Norman Hall and his wife Shirley Nilsen Hall have both been with NTC for many years.  They have teamed up again to re-mix the 1992 production they did of the same play. Twenty-one years ago, Norman directed Shirley as Truvy, she is now playing Ouiser.  Karen Clancy, now taking the role of Truvy played Annelle and Susan Zelinsky, who then played Shelby is now playing her mother, M’Lynn.

The realistic beauty parlor set is designed by Harry Reid.  Finally, this is not a production which depends on individual performances as much as the ensemble working together.  NTC’s Steel Magnolias is evidence that a thoughtful, committed production can pull magic out of a script that might otherwise seem a little bitter.

Steel Magnolias runs at Novato Theater Company through March 10, 2013.  The location is St. Vincent’s School for Boys at 1 St. Vincent Drive, San Rafael, CA. Performances are at 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.  For tickets, call 883-4495 or go online at

Coming up next at Novato Theater Company will be The Foreigner by Larry Shue, May 23-June 16, 2013.

Flora Lynn Isaacson


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