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By Ed Moreth 

Paradise Players perform 'Steel Magnolias'


Ed Moreth

Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Susannah Lindsay) shows marks she got from her dialysis treatment while her friends from the left Truvy Jones (Rashell Jones), Claire Belcher (Bonnie Firestone), Ouiser Boudreaux (Kathleen Hubka), and Annelle Duluth DeSoto (Cecilia Harris) are taken aback at finding out she's even going though the treatment.

The Paradise Players prompted cheers and tears in their latest performance last week with its rendition of "Steel Magnolias."

The all woman cast provided almost three hours of entertainment Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Paradise Center with nearly 60 people in attendance on each of the first two days and with Sunday drawing the biggest crowd of about 80 people. Steel Magnolias is a dramatic comedy about a group of small-town women in Louisiana that share a special bond and in the end deal with the loss of one of their own hometown girls.

The play was written by Robert Harling in 1987 and is based on the passing of his diabetic sister. Hollywood made Harley's screenplay into a hit movie in 1989 and he even played the part of the minister, said Kathleen Hubka, who directed the Paradise Players depiction and played the part of Ouiser Boudreaux, the sometimes cantankerous old lady. The cast included Rashell Jones, who plays Truvy Jones, the owner of the beauty salon, the setting of the play. This was Jones' second time to perform with the Paradise Players. Her first was last year in the "Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Church." Sixteen-year-old Cecilia Harris played the newcomer in town, Annelle Duluth DeSoto, who gets a job at the salon and has a shady past. As a Plains High School freshman, Harris had been in two high school drama club plays.

Susannah Lindsay, 18, played Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, the newlywed who had a baby against the advice of doctors and her mother, M'Lynn Eatenton, played by Deborah Davis. Lindsay, a homeschool senior, acted at Plains High School for two years. It was the acting debut for Bonnie Firestone, who played Claire Belcher, a widower who had been married to the town's former mayor. Firestone said she participated in a talent contest telling blonde jokes about 15 years ago, but always wanted to try the stage.

The play was broken into two acts with two scenes in each act and went over a period of 18 months, in which time Shelby married, had her baby, experienced kidney failure and passed away. In the final scene, the cast gets emotional as M'Lynn divulges what she went through in the attempt to donate a kidney to her daughter and how painful it was to watch her daughter pass away while in a coma. Annelle, now married and pregnant, reveals to M'Lynn and the gals that she wants to name her baby Shelby, whether it's a boy or girl.

The scene and music setting was 1985. Wendy Artz served as the "dramaturgist" and made a display of items from 1985. She also helped with the set and properties and was the sound technician. Benjamin Winkler and Dawson Brown, who have performed with the Paradise Players before, were the set crew. Brown was the only male in the play, doing the voice of the radio DJ and Ouiser Boudreaux's dog barking.

The play prompted continuous laughter and a few tears. "I laughed and cried both times," said Jackie Colyer, who volunteered at the Paradise Center during the performances. "I think it's some of the best acting we've seen and I think the plot - it was serious, but also frivolous and it was sad, but also funny - gave the actors a wide range of opportunity," said Karen Thorson, the center's secretary.

Hubka said she received positive feedback on the play and felt her cast members were excellent with natural abilities.

She's planning a female version of the "Odd Couple" September 8-10. The 1968 movie, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, had six men and two women, but Hubka said the Paradise Players depiction will have six women and two men and she has already selected a cast. "I would like to have a couple of female assistants during the rehearsal process, just in case someone is unable to complete the entire production. People so often have conflicts that come up," she said.


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