On Valentine’s Day, I braved the cold and ice and ventured to Alumnae Hall at Wellesley College, where the school’s student theatre group would be presenting “Steel Magnolias,” a play written by Robert Harling and directed by Em White, class of 2015.
I must admit, I did not know what to expect when sitting down to watch “Steel Magnolias.” I was unfamiliar with the story; could it be a romance, a comedy? With a paradoxical title like “Steel Magnolias,” it could be anything. And yet, when the girl next to me pulled a large handful of tissues out of her backpack, I became suspicious that I was in for an emotional rollercoaster.
As the lights went up on the show, I found myself (and the rest of the audience) sitting in a beauty parlor. The wonderful cast took me through the story, as if in a trance. A loud-talking beauty parlor owner, a soft-spoken hairstylist, a friendly old lady from the town, a nasty old lady from the town, a blushing bride, and a tough mother-of-the-bride all made up the cast. The play seemed to unpack itself; what started out as lighthearted beauty parlor conversation became heavier and heavier. Time moved quickly, and yet slowly. Quick-witted banter transformed in sad monologues. And yet nothing felt unnatural. I found myself still in a trance as lights went up for intermission.
How is it possible to fall in love with characters in only a few hours? I am not the only person who felt this way; due to the sheer talent of the cast and intimate setup of the stage, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end of the play. The girl next to me had used up all of her tissues. After the play ended, I hugged her for a little while.
So what did the paradox of “Steel Magnolias” mean? A magnolia is a delicate flower, and steel is a tough metal. Steel Magnolias may look delicate to the eye, but when life gets difficult, they do not need rescuing. When there are challenges, Steel Magnolias will be the last ones standing. They are stronger than the rest of us, and will weather the storm.