Theater Review: Jennifer Nordlof directs strong cast at Pec Playhouse

Currently running at Pec Playhouse, Steel Magnolias looks into the lives of six women living in Chinquapin, La., in the mid-1980s. Jennifer Nordlof assembles a cast that beautifully portrays the comedy and tragedy they face. Truvy’s beauty salon becomes the setting for the exchange of gossip, secrets, and plans for the future.

Jessica Barkdoll, only 16, plays Shelby, a young woman planning her wedding and looking to the future in spite of her chronic illness. Julie Boggie is M’Lynn, her mother, who tries to protect her from the consequences of having a family. Truvy (Renee Allen) provides the space for her clients and dear friends to share the problems of their lives. Arriving on the scene, Annelle (Jessica Boggie) becomes part of the group. Penny Wiegert is Clairee. She debuts at Pec Playhouse after performing at Byron Civic Theatre in many of their productions. Her delivery of snappy one-liners gives the entire play its best humor. Equaling her performance is that of Diane Grosvenor-Johnson as the outrageous Ouiser. She terrifies the neighborhood in every way and dresses as if her wardrobe were that of a homeless person.

The movie starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts prepares the audience for the final scenes, but these “Steel Magnolias” are every bit the professionals. We empathize with their problems and their joys. Barkdoll gives her role the sensitivity and bravado it demands, and Julie Boggie’s final scene as the grieving mother brings tears. Allen and Jessica Boggie become closer than most mothers and daughters. The entire play is one of the supportive relationships many of us are fortunate to have.

Nordlof’s direction is obvious in every scene. She gives her cast the focus so needed in this drama. In her first experience with Pec Playhouse, she says, “I have to tell you that this is the most supportive group of theater lovers. Everyone has worked so hard behind the scenes to make this production come to life.”

Running through Feb. 25, this is a definite show to put on your list of things to do. Call Pam at (815) 239-1210 for ticket information. Don’t forget to dial the area code.

From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue

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