Southern Charm and Strength of Steel: ECC’s Steel Magnolias

Vanessa Passo, Staff Writer

Think Sex In The City meets southern charm.

The gossip, laughter and tears portrayed from the leading ladies of Steel Magnolias left the audience with the lasting impression of strength, love and true friendship.

Elgin Community College’s production of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, directed by Susan A. Robinson, was performeed in the school’s Second Space theatre, on Nov. 4 and will run until Nov. 13.

The all-female cast of six represented family and friends of southern roots; subtle accents and bouffant hairdos made this appropriately obvious.  

Taken place in a beauty shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana, shop owner Truvy Jones opens her doors for more than just shampoo’s and perms.

The confiding in friends among the beauty shop allows for the play to have a strong sense of woman empowerment; this beauty salon is their safe haven away from their realities.

The breakdown of scenes among Act I were beautifully transitioned; from an April’s wedding day of main character Shelby Eatenton to a holiday gathering in December, with salon newbie Annelle Dupuy-Desoto’s Christmas decorations adorning the shop.

Act II was a progression of time, and Shelby ditches her long, golden locks for her newfound-motherhood-empowered-bob. Newly married and joyfully pregnant, Shelby faces the life-threatening risk of childbirth while living with diabetes. Her mother, M’Lynn Eatenton, shows less-than-excitement at such news, being terrified and angry at the risk of losing her only daughter.

M’Lynn looks to her four friends for the strength to get through the ups and downs of new life, while suffering a loss of her own. The hilarious and heartwarming relationships between the women portray genuine friendships and heartfelt compassion.

The quaint theatre and set made for an intimate experience between the audience and the cast. It felt as though one was sitting right in a salon chair, overhearing the exchanges between these ladies. The set remained the same the entire duration of the play; and I believe that did wonders for the meaning of the production as whole. Props were added and therefore taken away during different scenes, similar to how the ladies’ lives constantly changed, minor and somewhat majorly, between the times they would all reunite in Truvy’s salon. However, keeping the setting at the salon gives the lasting impression that home is where the heart is; their hearts, for these six ladies, just so happened to reside in the home they called Truvy’s salon. Times change, but the memories made while sitting in those beauty chairs were forever memorable, and keeping the setting to one place, just in a progression of time, was quite brilliant.

The contrast of characters’ personalities added great substance to the play as a whole. Southern twang and accents, although similar, were given a great amount of life from the humorous wit of Clairee Belcher, to the sarcastic pessimism of Ouiser Boudreaux.

The ladies dressed appropriately for their time, sporting ankle-long floral dresses, brightly colored pant suits, inch-high heels and patterned blouses under cardigans. Tousled and teased, the ladies sported hair-do’s that were nothing less than big and rich in their small town Louisiana parish.

The relationships between the leading women of the play were nothing short of genuine. Audience members could not help but chuckle or choke up at the real, raw emotions, and hilarious, witty remarks exchanged between the friends.

Overall, the heartbreak of loss and the celebration of joy is ultimately made more bearable in good company. Steel Magnolias allows the audience to feel empowered by their womanhood, and take pride in being surrounded by people of higher quality in life.

Six friends in one beauty shop makes for unforgettable memories; the production of Steel Magnolias did a fine job of portraying love, loss, friendships and empowerment between women who became steel magnolias themselves.