By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

The Warehouse Living Arts Center Theatre & Gallery officially kicks off its 50th anniversary with the premiere of Steel Magnolias, a dramedy performance of Robert Harling’s 1987 stage play (and the 1989 film of the same name). Helmed by Amy Gonzales in her directorial debut, this six woman ensemble brings an impressive mix of laughs and tears to WLAC audiences this season.

When a young girl named Annelle (Madison O’Sullivan) gets hired to become part of Truvy’s in-home beauty parlor, she becomes part of a small, but close group of women who regularly share all their personal news and stories with each other. The biggest news is the impending marriage of Shelby (Erin Jones), a spirited young girl who regularly argues with her mother, M’Lynn (Aimee Kaspyrzyk, who played Annelle in the first WLAC production), and the events that take place after.

The on-stage action stays within the beauty parlor over the next few years, and focuses on the friendship of six women who make the salon their second home. Among the cast are the former mayor’s wife Clairee (Carolyn Lampier), the single and grumpy Ouiser (Debbie Bigler) who loves her dog, and Truvy the salon owner (Kimberly Carty).

Each cast member gets a moment to shine and share their comedic and dramatic chops in a play that feels both leisurely in pace, but fast in dialogue. The verbal wit is sharp and regular, providing numerous moments to laugh throughout the production, but when the dramatic elements take place, they become some of the strongest elements of the show.

The six women each provide a solid and heartfelt performance. Especially funny are Bigler as Ouiser with her cantankerous nature, and Lampier as her frienemy, the well-traveled Clairee. O’Sullivan’s turn as Annelle delivers a solid and earnest performance as the audience’s proxy as she finds her place in the salon after a failed relationship, and Carty offers a sweet-natured performance as the anchor for the group’s emotional moments. Eagle-eared listeners will pick up KAND’s Bob Belcher as the voice of the DJ on the radio.

Two of the most notable performances come from Erin Jones and Aimee Kaspyrzyk. Jones is a late addition to the cast, but walks on the stage as though she had rehearsed with the ensemble from Day 1. Her performance and range provides many of the story’s more dramatic moments. But it is Kaspyrzyk’s performance who provides one of the strongest and most emotional monologues during the character’s most challenging moment. If you’re wondering whether or not to pack tissues for the play, perhaps bring a few extra, just in case.

Steel Magnolias is a touching, heartfelt, and funny play about how the bonds of friendship help one cope through life’s difficult moments. Gonzales direction provides a pace to let the humor and drama resonate with the audience, and the play itself signifies the Warehouse’s return to a regular performance schedule.

Steel Magnolias runs from May 27 through June 6, with two socially distanced shows. Call the WLAC box office at 903-872-5421 (open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mon-Fri), or visit for more details.

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