Washington County's own Steel Magnolias

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By Ken Begley

“M’Lynn, your husband is the boil on the butt of humanity.”

Ouiser’s line from Steel Maganolias


Hey, Margaret Chelf!  I’ll be waiting in the front row when you belt out that line!

Steel Magnolias is the latest play being performed by the Central Kentucky Community Theatre. It will be playing February 26-28 and March 5-7. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

You’ve got to see this play.  It’s full of more memorable one-liners than a Rodney Dangerfield and Bob Hope act together.  I have to also say that the names of most of the characters are as unusual as the personalities they portray.  

You might remember the 1989 blockbuster movie produced with Dolly Parton, Sally Fields, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, and Olympia Dukakis.  What you probably didn’t know is that the movie was based on a play made for six women performers.  The play was expanded into the movie that you remember.

The play’s actually better than the movie.  More so because it’s performed by locals who can play these “locals” to a tee.  It also has some surprisingly serious and tender scenes that will jerk at your heartstrings.

It’s set in a beauty salon in rural Louisiana.  The play covers nearly three years in the lives of the women. Each of the four scenes take place many months after the last.  The smooth dialogue seamlessly tells us what has happened since we last left them.

 When we begin, it’s Shelby’s (Charlotte Campbell) wedding day. Her mom, M’Lynn (Jan Fattizzi), is proud as can be, but worried about her headstrong daughter. Shelby is diabetic, and doctors have said she shouldn’t have children, but when, in a later scene, she announces she has become pregnant, she insists she will have the baby no matter what the cost.  

The play is filled with surprises and heartache, but these women manage to get through all of it with great humor, wit, and love.  They really are strong women for tough times.  This collection of survivors are truly Steel Magnolias.

Charlotte Campbell has played a list of characters as long as your arm at the Opera House and works very believably in this latest role opposite veteran regional theatre actress Jan Fattizzi.  Jan has also been in some small parts on television and commercials in past work.

The cast includes St. Dominic School fifth grade teacher Margaret Chelf, a veteran of both the Central Kentucky Community Theatre and the Lebanon Community Theatre. She’s well known for her role in “Nunsense” and is now playing a hysterically funny old belligerent gal called “Ouiser.”

Connie Rakes is a newcomer to plays, though she taught drama at St. Charles in Marion County for many years.  She currently works in state government out of an office at the Washington Country Courthouse.  Her role is “Clairee,” the widow of the former mayor.  Clairee is as sassy as Ouiser.  It’ll leave you rolling in the aisles when Connie and Margaret “go for the throat” as their characters collide on stage.  They fight so much you would think they were sisters.

Rose Clements plays “Annelle,” who is the new girl in town and assistant to the beauty salon owner “Truvy,” played by Lucinda Effner.  Rose, like Charlotte, has a string of performances behind her name, with her strongest as Rizzo in last year’s production of Grease.  Annelle’s personal life always seems to be in an uproar, and the focus of much attention by all concerned.

Finally you have Lucinda Effner.  Lucinda works at Spring View Hospital as a social worker.  She’s been in one play before as the mayor’s wife in “Bye Bye Birdie.”  Lucinda is also part of the Mid-Kentucky Chorus at St. Catharine College.

Here’s what I like about the play. It reminds me of being in one of the old barbershops downtown when it’s full of customers. You know what I mean? You just sit back in one of those warm cozy corners and listen and enjoy the conversation. You don’t have to talk as everyone goes on about people, weather, and local events.  I always feel so relaxed when I come out after a haircut. An added bonus is when a “real character” comes in and dominates the room with his own jokes and thoughts.  It’s just so entertaining.  

That’s what this play is like.  A chance to clear your mind and do some easy listening to amusing stories and one liners with six “real characters”

So, if this old world is getting you down, then come on down to Truvy’s beauty shop and meet the girls as they spin their Southern down home wisdom.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Watch out for Lucinda’s “Truvy.”  I can understand why Lucinda is a singer.  Her voice is as smooth and velvety as silk.  When she talks, it seems to me that it’s almost as lyrical as a young mother singing lullabies to her baby.  She can also say more with a sideways glance and an arch of her eyebrows than most people do all day.

 It’s all very relaxing, and the play is a hoot.  

See you there.

Especially you,  Margaret Chelf.

Front row.