‘Steel Magnolias’: A tale of heart, heartbreak and humor

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Courtesy photo The cast of Lake City Playhouse’s upcoming production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ rehearses a scene. The show runs on select dates from Feb. 16 to March 4. For info and tickets, visit lakecityplayhouse.org.

The bonds of friendship and the strength of women will take center stage in Lake City Playhouse’s production of “Steel Magnolias.”

The show opens Feb. 16 and will run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 4.

Written by Robert Harling, “Steel Magnolias” explores the bond between six southern women living in northern Louisiana as they discuss topics both deep and superficial. Though their discussions often lead to conflict, they resolve to always live and act as friends despite bitter disagreements and heart-wrenching loss.

Although the play and movie hit the stage and screen in the 1980s, director Tracy Vaughan said the emotional impact, humor, and heartbreak in Steel Magnolias are still very poignant today.

“The story of these strong, southern women is often categorized as a ‘chick flick’ or a ‘women’s play,’” Vaughan said.

“While it does certainly capture much about the female side of humanity, I hope that as we continue to evolve in the present era in our thoughts about women and their place in our society that we can recognize this story as a funny tribute to the overall human condition, a touching commentary on relationships among lifelong friends, and a powerful testament to the limitless boundaries of parental love,” Vaughan added.

Two actresses in the play are reprising their roles as Clairee, played by Wendy Carroll, and Ouiser, played by Kathie Doyle-Lipe.

“I think [Ouiser] helps shape the show in a couple ways,” Doyle-Lipe said. “She is a bit of a comic relief as the story of loss and grief is being told. She is the cantankerous old woman with a heart of gold — she is probably one of the driving forces to keep this group of women and their routines and traditions going year after year. She knows how important friends are, as they have helped her through the tough times in her life.”

“The others are mostly magnolias on the outside and steel within,” Doyle-Lipe added. “I believe Ouiser is the opposite: tough exterior, but the typical magnolia in her heart.”

The cast also features some newcomers, notably Marta Meyer, who plays Annelle, the awkward new employee at Truvy’s beauty shop.

“Annelle’s personal story is about self-discovery, which I think can be relatable to anyone, no matter what stage of life they’re in,” Meyer said. “In relation to the other women in the salon, Annelle is there to keep things fresh. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth or what interests she’s going to have that week; however, she’s always there to love and support the other women.”

One of the most famous roles from the story — portrayed by Sally Fields in the 1980s movie adaptation — is that of M’Lynn, the mother to diabetic Shelby.

Coeur d’Alene veteran actor Callie Cabe said she was thrilled to play this iconic part, describing it as one of her “bucket list roles.”

“Some may argue that M’Lynn appears over-protective, but I see her as a mother using her wisdom and experience to seek what’s best for her daughter. Most of all, she wants her daughter to be happy and live a full life. I feel M’Lynn is the very definition of a Steel Magnolia, ‘a woman who exemplifies both traditional femininity as well as an uncommon fortitude,’” Cabe said.

“What makes this piece so special is, regardless of your personal journey, everyone can relate to the story of love and loss, and the bonds we make during these difficult times,” Cabe added. “As Truvy says, ‘laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.’”

The show runs Feb. 16 through March 4, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Playhouse is located at 1320 E. Garden Ave. in Coeur d’Alene. Tickets are available at www.lakecityplayhouse.org.

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