Southern Grit(s) – a review of “Steel Magnolias”

By Claire DeMarco

A big wedding is happening this afternoon in a small rural town in 1980’s Louisiana.

Truvy (Robyne Parrish) owner of a home-based beauty salon expects this day to be a bit busier than normal.

She just hired Annelle (Saige Smith) as an assistant and poor Annelle will be thrown head first into hairspray overload, giant rollers and ever churning hair dryers.

Note:  Those old dryers that look like space helmets!

Bride-to-be Shelby (Kyra Kennedy), her mother M’Lynn (Monica Wyche) and Clairee (Elizabeth Elias Huffman) are in various degrees of “hair care.”  Ouiser (Helena Ruoti) arrives late, in a bad mood from the get-go.

Note:  She will later claim that she’s “been in a bad mood for forty years.”

Conversation is centered on Shelby’s upcoming wedding, the preparations, the excitement, promises and hopes to come.

The seasons change, the beauty salon doesn’t.  The customers and friends are still there.

Shelby is married and has a new baby. M’Linn is concerned since Shelby is a diabetic and has been cautioned not to conceive.  A beauty salon is not only a social center for light conversation. It’s a gossip hub as well, where some secrets and discussions are best left at home (but aren’t).

Time passes and Shelby’s health worsens. M’Lynn, Truvy, Clairee, Annelle and Quiser provide the support, comfort, tears and laughter for dealing with life and its many ups and downs.

As the gum chewing, flashy dresser, Parrish shines as Truvy.  She is definitely the epitome of a Southern belle. She gives her opinions willingly, whether you asked for them or not.

We watch Smith transition from a backward, awkward new employee to an assertive and confident member of the group.

Truvy (Robyne Parrish) preps her hair before opening her beauty salon.

Elias Huffman captures the essence of a wealthier, more poised member of the group but one who interjects her verbal shots as well as her cohorts.

Kennedy is the perfect Shelby.  She’s positive, upbeat, forward looking in spite of her limitations.

Wyche portrays M’Linn as the ever-present concerned parent who has watched over Shelby for years.  She shows us how she adapts when Shelby determines her own destiny.

Ruoti is delightful as the ouchy, grouchy Ouiser.  She captures us the moment she hits the stage.  Hardly ever smiling and squinting like she just swallowed a lemon slice.  Ruoti subtly hints that there is a softness behind that façade.

You go Girl(s)!!!

Excellent production and so appropriate for Women’s History Month. Kudos to Director Marya Sea Kaminski.


 “Steel Magnolias” is a production of Pittsburgh Public Theater.  It runs from March 22 through April 9. For more information, click here.




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