The second production by P3 Theatre Company is a marvel unto itself as it boasts the professionalism, talent and care of its local contemporaries. Derived from the 1989 smash comedy film, this female-driven stage adaptation of Steel Magnolias was a bold choice for the fresh company’s sophomore effort, but the gutsiness pays off.
Set entirely in the hair salon run by Truvy Jones (Veronica Monae), Steel Magnolias explores the dynamics of friendship, family and the connections and disruptions that come with both of those relationships.
Proprietor Truvy hires a quirky, down and out Annelle (Shai Culver) to assist her as they beautify the town’s leading ladies: former town first lady Clairee (Beverly Crain), mother-daughter pair M’lynn and Shelby (Michelle Miller-Day and Emily Lappi, respectively), and town curmudgeon Ouiser Boudreaux (Michelle Holmes). In two acts, these ladies bond, argue, cherish one another, and ultimately cope with the loss of one of their own.
The production, directed by Noelle Carney, is tinged with an evident understanding of female relationships and the tightrope between support and resentment. The six ladies onstage converse with one another as if they have been long before P3 elected to do the show at all. Standout performances include Shai Culver’s perfectly accented and winningly naïve Annelle (reminiscent of Dawn from Waitress, if anyone has seen) as well as Beverly Crain and Michelle Holmes, whose complementary pairing is hilarious and believable.
Steel Magnolias is an adventure through female individuality and camaraderie well worth the turmoil (and well worth the cost of admission). It is worthy of its title—the venue may be delicate as a flower, but the resolve of the team behind it is steel-sturdy.
If nothing else, lovers of Long Beach theatre ought to enlighten themselves to this relatively new offering—The Ernest Borgnine Theatre is still something of a secret at the present, but not one that should be kept. It will soon be the envy of the other better-established venues.
Steel Magnolias runs until Nov. 17 at the Ernest Borgnine Theatre, 855 Elm Ave. Tickets are on sale at cost between $15 to $50. Online ticketing is available at ernestborgninetheatre.org. The theater’s box office can be reached at (562) 435-8381.