Steel Magnolias

 By Mary Achary

“I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.” This simple yet powerful quote is from Shelby Eatenton Latcherie, one of the main characters in Steel Magnolias.

Jerry L. Johnson directed the final play of the season for Delgado Theatre, bringing Robert Harling’s comedy-drama about six Southern women and their daily struggles to the stage in its original format with an all-female cast.

Steel Magnolias is not only Shelby’s story, it is a story about the five other women she surrounds herself with who have their own stories to tell. It is the story of friendships between women, relationships between mothers and daughters, and relationships between husbands and wives.

M’Lynn Eatenton (Elizabeth Christiansen) is a fair-minded, no-nonsense wife and mother of three children; Shelby, Tommy, and Jonathan. Although she loves all three of her children equally, M’Lynn has a closer relationship and is more protective (sometimes overprotective) of Shelby because of her diabetic condition.

Shelby Eatenton Latcherie (Meghan E. McDermott), eldest child and only daughter of M’Lynn and Drum Eatenton, is a young woman suffering the long-term effects of diabetes. She is determined to live as normal a life as possible including keeping her job as a newborn nurse at the local hospital, getting married, and eventually having a child of her own despite the risk to her health.

Truvy Jones (Hillary Klein) is the owner of Truvy’s, the only hair salon in Chinquapin Parish. Truvy’s is the women’s home away from home where they gather almost on a daily basis to gently rib and gossip about one another (and other townsfolk) for fun and seek comfort and solace from one another in times of sadness.

Clairee Belcher (Emily Boudreaux) is a widow, former first lady of Chinquapin Parish, and Ouiser Boudreaux’s best friend. Clairee is both wealthy and stylish while always keeping herself up to date on local social events, politics, and most important of all, the local gossip.

Ouiser Boudreaux (Anna James) Louisa Boudreaux is the curmudgeon of Chinquapin Parish. Although she is best friends with Clairee Belcher, she has a “love-hate” relationship with her as well as M’Lynn’s husband Drum. Ouiser is twice divorced and prefers the company of her St. Bernard dog Rhett to any man.

Annelle Dupuy Desoto (Gabrielle DiMaria) Originally from Zwolle, Louisiana, Annelle Dupuy is a young beauty school graduate and a newcomer to Chinquapin Parish. She takes a job working at Truvy’s while living at Ruth Robeline’s boarding house. Annelle is afraid that if Truvy finds out about her past, she won’t hire her for the hairstylist’s position.

Meghan McDermott in her debut brings the same freshness to the part of Shelby Eatenton Latcherie that Julia Roberts brought to the role in the 1989 movie. Likewise, Elizabeth Christiansen’s portrayal of M’Lynn Eatenton is as warm and compassionate today as it was when Sally Field played the character in the movie version of the play. Hillary Klein’s role as Truvy Jones was full of heart and moving. The cast and set continued the tradition of fine theatre at Delgado.

          Steel Magnolias is not only a play about family relationships and friendships, it is also about a woman’s individuality. It is a story of women’s identity, strength, and empowerment, a reminder of how far we have come as a society and how far we still have to go.

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