For Hackmatack’s latest production, “Steel Magnolias,” theatergoers are whisked away to a beauty parlor in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. Undying love and friendship blossom and grow within the pastel walls, as six strong-willed women gossip and commiserate over the trials, tribulations and joys of their lives in the small Southern town.

The play opens in April of 1987. It’s Shelby’s (Rachel Noland) wedding day, and the women of the town have appointments at the local beauty parlor to get dolled up for the big event. The sassy owner, Truvy, played by Monique Foote, is auditioning a new beautician, Annelle, played by Alanna Bagdon. Intrigued by her mysterious past, Truvy decides to hire the shy newcomer to assist with the nuptial rush.

The salon is soon bustling with activity as the customers arrive, one by one. All have known Shelby her entire life and fuss over her like mother hens. Clairee (Raina Ames) is the wife of the deceased former mayor, M’Lynn (Kelli Leigh-Ann Connors) is Shelby’s mom and Ouiser (Kate Miller) is their crotchety neighbor.

“I’m not crazy,” Ouiser drolly tells the ladies. “I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”

The six characters’ life stories unfold through gossip and playful banter as the two hairdressers wash and style in a functioning set. Amidst the chatter, Shelby has a diabetic episode, foreshadowing what’s to come in the second act.

Hackmatack’s production, directed by Caitlin Lowans, offers an intimate look at life and the people in small-town America. Foote is a firecracker as Truvy, delivering saucy one-liners while believably styling hair. Her ever-changing hairstyle is a nice touch, highlighting her character’s adventurous spirit and the overall inevitability of change in life.

As time passes, the characters undergo a lot of change. Bagdon captures Annelle’s transformation from a quiet girl with a sordid past to a gregarious born-again Christian. Ames and Miller offer interesting side stories as their characters open up to new possibilities of love and happiness.

Noland and Connors are the heart of the story as Shelby and M’Lynn, offering a heartbreaking look at the mother-daughter relationship.

“Steel Magnolias” is a touching story about family, friendship and the sacrifices people make for those they love. Hackmatack delivers a rendition that’s an endearing reminder to laugh, love and live life to the fullest.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle