Story is set in a beauty parlor in Louisiana town

From left: Myra Kaelin (M’Lynn), Becca Snook (Shelby), Adrianne Wilkinson (Truvy), Marisa Lopes (Annelle), Marion Pintello (Clairee) and Suzi Sellers (Ouiser) rehearse for “Steel Magnolias.” – Photo by Marty Cheek

By Marty Cheek

Six women who are as delicate as magnolias but as tough as steel deal with love and loss in South Valley Civic Theatre’s comedy-drama “Steel Magnolias.”

Opening at the Morgan Hill Playhouse Nov. 15, the stage play by Robert Harling is based on his experience with his sister’s death and her relationship with a group of women who often met at a beauty part in a small Louisiana town in the 1980s.

Tiffany Goller and Bill Tindall co-direct the show and Marianne Snook is the producer. The actresses are Marisa Lopes (Annelle Dupuy-Desoto), Marion Pintello (Clairee Belcher), Myra Kaelin (M’Lynn Eatenton), Suzi Sellers (Ouiser Boudreaux), Becca Snook (Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie), and Adrianne Wilkinson (Truvy Jones).

The story focuses on Shelby and explores her relationship with her mother, M’Lynn, the local social leader. Truvy, runs the salon in her home and the four clients grow into good friends over the span of two years.

“The women are very emotional and real,” Goller said. “There’s some comedy and we’ve been laughing and crying throughout the rehearsal process.”

Her first time directing a play, Goller’s experiences working for 30 years as a hairdresser in a Morgan Hill salon helps her understand the characters and their personalities and problems. Women open up and share their secrets when they’re having their hair styled, she said.

“I feel like I lived this show. This show is my life,” she said. “I feel like I know these women, and that’s why I wanted to produce this show  .  .  . Certain salons have the right chemistry and the right people and it just makes people comfortable to tell you stuff — good and bad. It’s a small town and you hear things and you build relationships.”

Bill Tindall grew up in the Mississippi Delta. As a southerner who understands the unique culture depicted in the show, he gladly agreed to co-direct with Goller when Snook invited him.

“I love the show. It’s the kind of thing I like in a play,” he said. “It’s meaty and dramatic. Great writing. I mean, a lot of the lines are iconic now because people know the movie.”

“Steel Magnolias” is a fun show for women to come out as a group and have a girls’ night out with plenty of laughter and some tears in a tender story about the women’s relationships, Snook said.

“It’s funny and it’s sad and we’re going to cry at the end. We’ll have lots of Kleenex out,” she said. “But up ’till then, there are so many funny, funny things because the people know each other very well. They support each other through the hard times, but they also rouse each other through the good times and have a great time with each other.”

Truvy Jones creates a salon for the women to feel safe and reveal their true selves. Adrianne Wilkinson plays her as an eccentric and animated person who cares about people and keeps the repartee going.

“She’s the heart of the show. She’s the one who brings everyone together,” she said. “She’s the one who always tries to change the subject if people are fighting. She wants to make sure that everyone has a good time in her salon. She loves gossip.”

For many women, the play is a rite of passage. Wilkinson encourages mothers to bring their daughters and granddaughters to see the show because it will resonate with their own lives because the characters have so much emotion, she said.

Marty Cheek