The action is set in Truvy's beauty salon in
Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to
have their hair done. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (who is
not sure whether or not she is still married), the outspoken,
wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the town's
rich curmudgeon, Ouiser, ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood
for forty years"); an eccentric millionaire, Miss Clairee, who has a
raging sweet tooth; and the local social leader, M'Lynn, whose daughter,
Shelby (the prettiest girl in town), is about to marry a "good ole boy."
Filled with hilarious repartee and not a few acerbic but humorously
revealing verbal collisions, the play moves toward tragedy when, in the
second act, the spunky Shelby (who is a diabetic) risks pregnancy and
forfeits her life. The sudden realization of their mortality affects the
others, but also draws on the underlying strength—and love—which give
the play, and its characters, the special quality to make them truly
touching, funny and marvelously amiable company in good times and bad.