"Steel Magnolias" - by Robert Harling - Square One Players (Shrewsbury, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" presented by Square One Players in Shrewsbury, MA. through March 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Joanne Smith)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724  

“Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it's marchin' across your face. 

                                                                               - ("Truvy") / Robert Harling


Square One Players 

Presents Robert Harling's


Written by Robert Harling

Directed by Jeremy Woloski

Cast Includes: Brenda (Jenkins) Macedo as “M’Lynn,” Laura Austin as “Shelby,” Abbie Levinson as “Annelle,” Catherine Haverkampf as “Truvy,” Krissi Forgues as “Clairee,” Ali Rea as “Oiser”

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Teddy Pearson; Production Manager - Joanne Smith; Assistant Production Manager - Tara Alano; Costumes - Foley Hermann


March 16, 2024 through March 24, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)

Flanagan Theater, Southgate at Shrewsbury, 30 Julio Drive, Shrewsbury MA.




"STEEL MAGNOLIAS" is presented by arrangement with Dramatists Play Service


Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Some stylistic moments accessorize the Square One Players stage in Shrewsbury in their latest offering, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS," now playing over the next two weekends.    

An impressive ensemble production, the "sisterhood" shown between the company of actresses shows a unique empathy, kindness and, above all, a loving bond between these characters.  

According to the Square One Players website, tickets are already going fast with some performances sold out - so get your tickets soon. 

Based on Robert Harling’s own experience with his sister's death, Harling wrote "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" to focus on the bond among this group of women of Louisiana.   

Not only an iconic 1989 film and a more recent 2012 television event, the play adaptation premiered in 1987 running for over 1,100 performances until closing in 1990

Since then, it has been performed all over the country and around the world.   

While the story is firmly set in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana during the 1980s, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" has a timeless quality.

Thanks to the cohesive ensemble in this fine Square One Players cast, the story never loses focus on its characters and their struggles, hopes or aspirations.   

(Photo: The CAST of Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" as staged by Square One Players in Shrewsbury, MA. through March 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Joanne Smith)

Although, on the surface, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" may appear to be a simple play to direct, the content and context of the dialogue combined with the actions involved in the "day to day" operation of this salon soon disprove that assumption.  

In "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" there’s a LOT going on, both technically and artistically.   

Director Jeremy Woloski, along with the cast and crew of Square One, has provided a great attention to detail in technical areas.   

Some of the technical elements include a marvelous set filled with salon chairs, plenty of accessories, and hair styling equipment such as an authentic salon sink and salon hair dryer.   

The focused and meticulous approach for this production is quite apparent. 

(Photo: Ali Rea as “Oiser,” Abbie Levinson as “Annelle,” Krissi Forgues as “Clairee” and Catherine Haverkampf as “Truvy” in a scene from Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" presented by Square One Players in Shrewsbury, MA. through March 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Joanne Smith)

The two-act "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" opens at the in-home beauty parlor in Chinquapin, run by owner-hairstylist Truvy (Catherine Haverkampf). 

Haverkampf appears to have fun playing Truvy, who spends most of her time attending to her customers at the salon, if only to not otherwise engage with her unseen idle husband. 

There is something instantly recognizable in Truvy's clienteles - i.e the ladies who regularly gather at Truvy’s salon. 

These women are not just customers - they are "kinfolk." 

This "family" takes care of one another through all their respective highs and lows, and through all their collective joys and sorrows.

And, as pointed out several times in the show, if you DIDN'T let any of them know you had a problem of some kind, they WILL take offense.  

Over the course of the play's journey - which spans 32 months broken down into four scenes in two acts - there are multiple sub-plots in Square One's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" involving the unseen men in the lives of these women. 

Not just husbands (or even late husbands), but also boyfriends, fiancés, brothers and even sons.  

Thankfully, those chaps are never seen as they would simply prove to distract from the real story here which is a story of these women, and it is a story well-executed by a solid ensemble of actresses.

As the title suggests, the female characters in the Square One Players production may seem “delicate as magnolias” but they are, in fact, “tough as steel.”   

Truvy has just hired Annelle (Abbie Levinson) who is new in town, having just arrived with little to her name.  

Only recently married to a shady guy, Annelle's fugitive husband has taken off with her car, money, and everything she owns, leaving Annelle in an emotionally shaken state.  

As Annelle, Levinson brings a hilarious anxious quality to the character, which contrasts nicely to Haverkampf's more calm and carefree Truvy.

Truvy becomes like an adoptive mother to Annelle, not only hiring her but giving her a place to stay.   

As the play goes along, Annelle becomes a born-again Christian and occasionally annoys the ladies of the salon.

Two of Truvy's regular clients are the young and determined diabetic Shelby (Laura Austin) and her concerned mother, M'Lynn (Brenda (Jenkins) Macedo).

M'Lynn works as a counselor at the local mental health guidance center but her own mental toughness is about to become sorely tested.

Austin is a dominating presence as strong-willed Shelby, who has come to Truvy the day of her wedding to get her hair done with very specific instructions on her desired appearance.

Macedo is wonderful as overprotective mom M'Lynn, who is concerned for her daughter - VERY concerned - not just for the wedding but for all of Shelby's ongoing "risky" life choices.   

M'Lynn chastises Shelby because she feels Shelby risks her health while Shelby feels the risk is what gives her life meaning.   

Shelby does this, even though it increases the risk of the onset of severe, possibly fatal, medical trauma in the process.   

Austin’s approach to portraying Shelby impresses not only in terms of Shelby's degrading condition but Shelby's disposition and outlook because of her health. 

She does not wish to be combative with her mother.

Showing Shelby’s decision to risk her life to marry and bring forth another life into this world is part of what she feels she needs to do.

Shelby needs to know that, in her own heart - and on her own terms - that her time while here on this earth has been for something other than subsistence.   

Parents and children occasionally argue and, in conveying that dynamic while maintaining a mother-daughter discourse, the performances by both Macedo and Austin are spot on.   

Some of that combative dynamic between parent and child occasionally extends well into that child's adulthood...if both are lucky.   

(Photo: Brenda (Jenkins) Macedo as “M’Lynn” and Laura Austin as “Shelby” in a scene from Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" presented by Square One Players in Shrewsbury, MA. through March 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Joanne Smith)

Among Truvy's other clients is the former “First Lady of Chinquapin,” Clairee (Krissi Forgues), who comes across as a permanent fixture at Truvy’s as she almost always seems to be there and is in no apparent hurry to leave.   

Clairee is the widow of the mayor and new owner of a sports team and local radio station.   

Forgues is outstanding as Clairee, a perfect foil for the overbearing Ouiser (Ali Rea), a curmudgeonly customer who has been unhappily married (twice) and has children who never call. 

Ouiser's only rumored companion is her unseen dog.    

Rea is an absolute riot as the acerbic Ouiser who, as fiesty as she is, never comes across as a toxic personality. 

There were multiple moments where some of Rae's cast mates appeared to visibly struggle maintaining composure because Rae is very much THAT funny.  

Ouiser does show a softer side, as well, as she considers the other women at the salon to be her closest friends...(if, perhaps, her only friends).

Kudos to Haverkampf and Levinson who, respectively as Truvy and Annelle, adeptly executed the actual hair styling required in the show (difficult while simultaneously maintaining the flow of the dialogue and actions required throughout).   

All the set changes and redresses are accomplished quickly and with minimal obstacles. The pacing of the show is excellent.

Costumes are appropriate for the time and place. 

One minor technical obstacle facing this production appears to occur in those times when towels need to be placed over wigs and they don't quite fit or choose to "cooperate," at times. 

(Photo: The CAST of Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" presented by Square One Players in Shrewsbury, MA. through March 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Joanne Smith)

Throughout "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" there are moments of great laughter and joy balanced with moments of tears and sadness.     

Thanks to Woloski’s even-handed approach, the execution of Harling's script maintained that balance between the two. 

"STEEL MAGNOLIAS" continues at the Square One Players in Shrewsbury until March 24th. Make sure to call ahead to make an appointment to see this wonderful production.

Coming in the fall to Square One will be "THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES" by Roger Bean


Approximately two hours, 15 minutes with one intermission.

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




In Robert Harling's "STEEL MAGNOLIAS," Truvy Jones runs a successful beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies in the neighborhood have a standing Saturday appointment. 

Along with her anxious and eager assistant, Annelle, Truvy styles the hair of many of the women about town: wealthy widow and former first lady of Chinquapin, Clairee Belcher, local curmudgeon Ouiser Boudreaux ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for forty years”), intelligent and compassionate career woman M’Lynn, and her daughter Shelby, the prettiest girl in town. 

Shelby’s engagement is the talk of the town, but the joy and excitement of her wedding quickly turn to concern as she faces a risky pregnancy and a myriad of health complications.  

As the women of "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" make their way over life’s many hurdles together, they find comfort (and a fair amount of verbal ribbing) in one another. .


SQUARE ONE PLAYERS mission is to provide a venue to promote and support the performing and cultural arts in Central Massachusetts. The goal of SQUARE ONE PLAYERS is to provide a quality and economical live theater program that is all inclusive and of course, have a little fun along the way. SQUARE ONE PLAYERS strives to open opportunities to anyone who wishes to participate in the art of theater. SQUARE ONE PLAYERS hopes that one and all will feel welcome to participate either by viewing or taking part in theater shows. Come join SQUARE ONE PLAYERS and be ready to be entertained!