"Personal tragedy will not get in the way of my ability to do good hair," announces Annelle as she finds her niche in "Steel Magnolias" now playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent until May 27.

Written by Robert Harling and directed by Bob Herried, "Steel Magnolias" is set in Louisiana, during the '80s, a time in which, "if you can achieve puberty you can achieve a past." It takes place in a beauty shop and follows the lives of six eccentric women as they get set for a wedding, a birth and a funeral.

Everyone who is anybody gets their hair done at Truvy's. Presided over by Truvy Jones, the shop is a safe haven for those who find comfort and support in friendship. There is an electric atmosphere; Truvy "picks up everything but boys and money." She lavishly spreads "fairy dust" (hairspray) over her customers as they tell secrets, take pot-shots at men, and trade recipes with Bisquick and Karo syrup as main ingredients.

Based on a true story, "Steel Magnolias" revolves around the relationship between mother and daughter, M'Lynn and Shelby Eatenon, who must deal with Shelby's life-threatening illness.

Marrying into a "meat and potatoes" family with the philosophy, "Shoot it, stuff it, or marry it," Shelby then has a baby because: "It would help things." Serious consequences result.

The performances of the all-female cast are outstanding. Dianna Warner plays M'Lynn Eatenton with a brave smile that collapses in face of inevitable tragedy. Shelby, played by Katie Warner Falk, is genuine and sweet but without the necessary vulnerability that gives the play its compelling edge.

Jazzmin Parker plays Annelle, the adorable born-again beautician. Priscilla Quinby is the cantankerous Ouizer Boudraux, who's "been in a very bad mood for 40 years." Her foil, wealthy entrepreneur Clairee Belcher, played by Judith Rosin, finally admits to her, "I love you as much as my luggage." Wendy Spurgeon and Renee Hewitt share the role of Truvy, the charismatic proprietress.

The set, designed by Donald Zastoupil, with its lattice, lace, and pervasive purple, is authentic down to the professional hairdryers and shampoo stands. However, the play that calls for intimacy seems to be encased a doll's house, distancing the audience and giving well drawn characters the appearance of caricatures.

The audience filled with ladies and senior couples roared with laughter at the numerous one-liners throughout the evening. The hilarity contrasts the underlying tragedy culminating in "laughter through tears" as "life goes on."

For tickets and information call: 541-535-5250.