The overriding theme of the show is love: love of mothers for their children; the imperfect realm of marital love; love of life in a small town; and, perhaps most of all, the enduring love longtime friends share.

DENNIS – The Cape Playhouse opened its 92nd season with the pleasantly familiar slice-of-life “Steel Magnolias,” the close-up and personal look at life in a small southern town, played out by six women who gather weekly in Truvy’s pink-and-poofy beauty salon, circa 1987.

Most theatergoers are familiar with the show’s storyline – thanks to the 1989 cinematic version featuring a powerhouse cast including Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field. So seeing the show is almost like singing along with an old favorite song. Written by Robert Harling and based on his sister’s life, the Playhouse production is directed by Pamela Hunt.

The overriding theme of the show is love: love of mothers for their children; the imperfect realm of marital love; love of life in a small town; and, perhaps most of all, the enduring love longtime friends share. The theme plays out in the interactions among six women of varying ages, with equal measures of humor and drama that blend seamlessly. The focus of the piece is the relationship between M’Lynn (played by Judy Kuhn) and her grown daughter, Shelby (Laurie Veldheer). As the play opens, Shelby is preparing for her wedding, with her five “ladies-in-waiting,” and the conversation is light and trivial; it’s all about hairstyles, floral arrangements, wedding colors and an unlikely groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo. But the mood quickly changes when Shelby’s lifelong illness rears its head with an attack, and her mother springs into action to save her. This is the first glimpse into the more serious side of life in small-town Louisiana.

Four-time Tony Award nominee Kuhn and Veldheer (who has an impressive resume of her own, featuring roles in “Mamma Mia!” and “Into the Woods”) ring true as a mother-and-daughter duo, with moments of tenderness interspersed with the tension mothers and daughters will recognize. M’Lynn visibly struggles with her need to protect and control a daughter whose passion for life takes her into dangerous territory – a pregnancy that could threaten her life. In one famous line from the show, Shelby declares that she’d rather risk the pregnancy than continue to endure “a life of nothing special.” Valdheer’s passionate delivery of the line makes her character’s determination to become a mother both believable and touching.

A variety of subplots also play out within the confines of Truvy’s Beauty Salon. Truvy herself (Amy Bodnar) is wonderfully quirky as the sweet and homespun beautician who is dealing with a “sofa spud” husband; she believes a new hairdo will fix anything and “there’s never too much hairspray.” Her words of wisdom include axioms like “The world is full of reflective surfaces.” Joy Franz, as the town’s previous first lady, is at once recognizable as a well-to-do Southern matron and surprising as her character explores new vistas, and Jillian Louis plays town newcomer Annelle with an endearing measure of sweetness. Mary Testa, as local curmudgeon Ousier, literally commands attention onstage. Her enthusiastic delivery of lines like, “I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a really bad mood for 40 years” provide the humorous backdrop to the action.

The set, designed by Daniel Whiting, is attractive and functional and true-to-life with its old-style décor and dryer hoods. And it was a pleasure to watch the seamless scene changes as the players made it clear time had changed by simply bringing new props – for instance, a Christmas tree – onto the set.

Also notable were the authentic ’80s-era hairstyles, created by wig designer Kurt Alger.

All in all, the Playhouse’s production of “Steel Magnolias” is as familiar and comforting as good Southern cooking. It’s a satisfying start to the summer season.