From the left

From the left

Dramedy a ‘real slice of life’

Yes, there’s a cast of chummy women in Central Alberta Theatre’s next play Steel Magnolias — and the characters laugh and cry.

Yes, there’s a cast of chummy women in Central Alberta Theatre’s next play Steel Magnolias — and the characters laugh and cry.

But don’t compare it to a chick flick, said director Albertus Koett.

“I am not a fan of the term,” added Koett, who doesn’t like marginalizing a story that’s essentially about human beings. “It’s about people and how they relate to each other, about their real motivations and hopes and dreams. It’s a real slice of life.”

Steel Magnolias, a dramedy by Robert Harling, opens on Friday, Nov. 1, at City Centre Stage in downtown Red Deer.

The play that was turned into a 1989 all-star movie (with Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, etc.) is about the bond that exists among a group of women living in northwest Louisiana.

Through the course of four scenes that all take place in Truvy’s beauty parlour, the characters experience joys, tragedies and everything in between.

As the title suggests, the audience will find that the delicate-as-magnolias females are by the end tough as steel.

Koett believes that the 1987 play has survived many stagings (including Japanese, Swedish, Irish and African-American versions) because the six women, who range in age from early 20s to mid-70s, deal with very relatable issues in their personal lives.

Even upon his first script reading, he noticed “the characters really jump off the page and I started to like them and enjoyed their relationships.”

When the play opens all is sunshine as Shelby, the youngest, prepares for her wedding to Jackson. But as the plot moves through the next three years, Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn, has to cope with her daughter’s worsening health problems.

Clairee, the widow of the town’s former mayor, must learn to adapt to life on her own, while Ouiser, the community curmudgeon, deals with fallout from her own negative attitude.

Truvy, who owns the hair salon, struggles with her children leaving the nest. And Annelle, a young beautician, faces marital problems with a husband who’s on the lam.

The audience “will witness the strength and togetherness of this group, and what this place means to them, and how (the characters) are coming together to support each other,” said Koett, who enjoyed working on the production.

The cast includes such CAT veterans as Angel Paulsen as M’Lynn and Vicki Dykes as Ouiser. As well, Lindsay Thurber drama teacher Trina Penner appears as Truvy, and RDC theatre alum Tori Grebinski portrays Annelle.

The actors are doing their own research into Louisiana-speak, but the script helps because of the way lines are phrased, said Koett.

The setting will remain mid-1980s. According to Koett, this means big hair, bigger shoulder pads, lots of neon colours and leggings. The production is also borrowing an older model hair dryer from a local hair academy, but Koett said he isn’t as hung up on getting the props correct as hitting the right emotions for the story.

“There are some joyful scenes and some not so happy ones, so hopefully the audience will come down to see it, and laugh and cry.”