At one point in Robert Harling's mischievous script for Steel Magnolias, set in Truvy's beauty shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana, tidily turned out Clairee Beltcher responds when the newly hired perm-and-trim assistant Annelle worries that one of the husbands might intrude into that women's world. "Oh, those men wouldn't ever come in here," she says. "They're afraid that we might be running around nekkid or something."
Harling's 1987 play and the 1989 film of succeed exactly because of that. These simple, charming women are sweet and frank with one another, emotionally naked and not the least ashamed of it.
Steel Magnolias is a story with a powerful attraction, one that transcends the merely "chick flic" aspect of it. It's a story of friendship and binding over the long term. No wonder that this play is so frequently produced in community theatre. I first saw it at Way Off Broadway Community Players in Leander in January 2009, then again a few months later at the Trinity Street Players of First Baptist Church. I was out of town when the City Theatre did it this past December. Sam Bass has this appealing production running until February 19, the Renaissance Guild in San Antonio stages an African-American edition for three weekends starting on Friday, February 4, and the Hill Country Community Theatre near Marble Falls holds auditions late this month for an April production.It's popular with audiences because they know the story and they can't resist the story of the fragile young Shelby surrounded by those funny and affectionate older women. Almost everyone loves a good cry -- 'cepting maybe the caricatured Louisiana men who never look inside the beauty shop.