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Steel Magnolias shines on stage
Back row left. to right: Cyndi Evans as Ouiser, Bobbie Elzey as Clairee, Anne Hargis, as Truvey. Front Row: Stacey Fields as Shelby, Martha Reynolds as M'Lynn, and Miranda Tamaska as Annelle. - photo by Submitted Photo
 Who knew an unassuming, 83-seat "black box" theater in Olde Town could rival Tinseltown? Sure, the film version of "Steel Magnolias" may have featured several Oscar winners; Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, etc., but Director Jay Tryall and his coterie of feisty females delivered a rousing yet poignant performance.

Staged in Truvy's Beauty Spot in Chinquapin, La., the story centers on six multi-generational friends as they deal with a myriad of life events: marriage, aging, an untimely death, grief and starting over. Truvy Jones, delightfully portrayed by Anne Hargis, informs us, "The last romantic thing my husband did was in 1972. He enclosed this carport so I could support him." The play was chock full of memorable one-liners that the cast expertly volleyed between one another.

 "The actresses really feed off the audience's reactions and laughter," Tryall said. "I love the intimate setting of the theater, although it's sometimes challenging to have the audience so close."

Stacey Fields, who embodies the vivacious and determined Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, said "I found myself laughing along with them at some of Ouiser's lines."

 Arriving on the scene with one sagging stocking, Cyndi Evans, as the wealthy, colorful curmudgeon Ouiser Boudreaux, stole the show. "Don't try to get on my good side...I no longer have one." Cyndi channeled a cactus to get into character, "imposing and prickly, but they can be life-sustaining also. The exterior of Ousier is prickly like a cactus, but inside she is softer and more vulnerable. I tried to show that she is loving and caring in her own way," Evans said.

 In a pivotal scene, a valley between the laughs, Clairee Belcher, the grande dame of Chinquapin and the yin to Ouiser's yang, offers Ms. Boudreaux up as a human punching bag to help relieve M'Lynn Eatenton's grief over the loss of her daughter. The pendulum of emotion was deftly handled by Bobbie Elzey and Martha Reynolds, respectively, two commanding veterans of stage.

 That brings us to the final cast member, Miranda Tamaska, who nailed beauty assistant Anelle Dupuy-Desoto's comic earnestness, "My personal tragedy will not affect my ability to do good hair." Tryall was especially pleased with her performance considering that she joined the cast after they were already three weeks into rehearsals.

 The play was a homecoming of sorts for Tryall. It was the second time he directed this piece for the New Depot Players.

 "Seven years ago, being wet behind the ears, we relied heavily on the movie to dictate our back stories and line readings," he said. "This time around we created our own characters and hoped the audience would buy into them and follow us into the new Chinquapin Parrish. We strictly adhered to what was written and the reasoning behind it. We let the lines dictate our actions."
 This audience member was sold.

The New Depot Players stage four productions per season.

 Their strategy of bringing back tried and true fan favorites was on point as they sold out four of nine shows with the rest being three-quarters full.

 TNDP's next production, "On Golden Pond," debuts on Oct. 16 followed by "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" in December.

 For more information, including how to become involved in this community asset, you can visit their Web site or call the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts at