Looking forward to my first Mother's Day as a new mom, I realize I've discovered a whole new kind of love this year - the unconditional love of a mother for her daughter.
This deep and primal devotion is celebrated in the Maui OnStage production of "Steel Magnolias," which just happens to be showing this Mother's Day weekend at the Historic Iao Theater.
Kelly Schroeder plays M'Lynn Eatenton, and Arielle Lehua Simon is her daughter, Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie - two women whose strength is cloaked in sweet Southern charm, not unlike, well, a steel magnolia.
Maui OnStage photo
Truvy (Kristi Scott) and Shelby (Arielle Lehua Simon) share tales of romance and big hair.
Shelby has Type I diabetes, and her loving (some might say controlling) mother keeps a close eye on her condition. Schroeder and Simon are dynamic together as the struggling mother-daughter pair.
As Shelby prepares for her wedding to Jackson Latcherie, she gushes over her nuptial colors of "blush and bashful," but her mama derides the colors as "pink and pink." When Shelby dreams of having children, M'Lynn chides her that the doctors advise against it. "I never worry because I know you worry enough for the both of us!" replies a frustrated Shelby.
Fortunately, the mother and daughter have an enduring support system: Truvy's beauty salon. The entire play takes place, in the homey, feminine nest of beauty posters and old Cosmo magazines, radiating beneath the warmth of Truvy's Southern hospitality.
* Moms can see "Steel Magnolias" for free on Mother's Day with the purchase of one ticket for the 3 p.m. Sunday matinee (on the honor system). Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Sunday, May 17. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for Sunday matinees; available at If the Shoe Fits, 21 N. Market St. in Wailuku, and online at www.mauionstage.com
As Truvy Jones, Kristi Scott dispenses motherly advice and words of wisdom, beginning with "there is no such thing as natural beauty" (her strict philosophy for 15 years). She is quick to share her beliefs with shy Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Sharleen Lagatutta), the newcomer with a "past." Lagatutta plays just the right mix of recluse and fanatic to bring appeal to the strange character.
But Annelle's eccentricities are small compared to those of Ouiser Boudreaux. Marianne Vasquez gives M'Lynn's crotchety neighbor a crusty yet lovable quality through her measured delivery and convincing one-liners ("I'm not crazy - I've just been in a very bad mood for the last 40 years").
Jeanette Rucci as Clairee Belcher backs her up with mild humor, eager for gossip and quick to sympathize. Funny lines abound throughout the play, and the six women really nail the good ones.
The men in their lives never make an appearance in the salon - as M'Lynn says, "This is women's territory Drum thinks we run around naked or something." The "Magnolias" don't run around naked, but they do style their hair and paint their nails.
The hairdressing weaves seamlessly into the action under the direction of Jennifer Rose, with help from stage manager Shawndra Davis and local stylists. The hairdos create a fun focal point beneath the dialogue as Truvy rats Shelby's hair, and Annelle washes and rolls M'Lynn's. Sporting a blonde bouffant 'do herself in true '80s style, Truvy is not one to be skimpy with the hairspray.
The costumes designed by Sarah Loney reflect the '80s as well, but more subtly: a pair of leggings here, a wide belt and shoulderpads there. The salon set designed by Steven Dascoulias shifts through the seasons, with decorations changing and posters coming up and down.
As Shelby's situation becomes more serious, the women's friendship grows stronger, and their characters grow stronger as well. Based on real life experience, Robert Harling's script shares the grave nature of Type 1 diabetes in a compassionate way.
"Nobody cries alone in my presence," Truvy says - and by the powerful end of the play, that goes for the audience as well.