Audiences are sure to enjoy Provo Theatre Company's latest production, "Steel Magnolias," with six competent actresses filling roles that demand the portrayal of both humor and heartbreak.

Directed by Susan Whiteknight, who also takes on the role of Ouiser Bordreaux, "Steel Magnolias" offers many opportunities to laugh and some to cry. Through the setting of a small-town beauty shop, the audience gets a glimpse of the lives of women who are dealing with issues both large and small - from the color of their nail polish to the death of a child.The story involves six women who are the closest of friends: Truvy (Julie Crow Williams), the owner of the hair salon; Annelle (Melanie Nelson), Truvy's newly hired employee; Clairee (Ruth Allred), a former mayor's wife; M'Lynn (Toni Edson), a woman who works at the local mental institution; Shelby (Amber Edson), M'Lynn's headstrong daughter; and Ouiser, M'Lynn's gruff but caring neighbor.

Much is learned about these women and their challenges and joys, simply through their conversations while they have their hair done. However, it is the warmth and concern they feel for each other, as well as the strength they share, that becomes the heart of this play.

An interesting aspect is that Provo Theatre Company has managed to cast a real-life mother and daughter in the roles of M'Lynn and Shelby. Also, Williams (who plays Truvy) is an actual hairstylist who has worked for television and film productions and who currently helps out on many PTC productions - including doing hair and makeup for "Steel Magnolias."

The entire cast does a fine job of acting out the wide range of emotions this play demands. Each woman plays a completely different character who meshes well with the others, and there are many opportunities for humor.

Especially good is Nelson, who offers a finely crafted character in Annelle, the nervous and flustered new hairstylist, and much of the humor comes from her earnest but clumsy efforts to please. Nelson is excellent, at first afraid that she will offend someone, and later being comfortable enough to share her deepest beliefs.

A consistent problem was the fumbling of lines throughout the play. They were not major mistakes and did not overly disrupt the flow of the play, but they were frequent enough to be bothersome and need to be cleared up. Hopefully, the cast will improve in this regard as it gets through several performances.

In general, this is another fine offering from PTC. Although at first "Steel Magnolias" may seem like a play that will appeal primarily to women, men are sure to see the humor and maybe gain some insight as well.