Six women in a beauty parlor. On either side there is a woman in a salon chair, with another woman standing behind her working on her hair. Two other women stand center, looking on.
The ensemble of Steel Magnolias at Drury Lane Theatre Credit: Brett Beiner Photography

My daughter tells me she likes the 1989 movie version of Steel Magnolias because you can have it running in the background while you do other things, and still more or less follow the plot. The 1987 play the movie is based on has the same virtue. You don’t really have to use all your brain cells to get the gist of what is going on—a group of southern women in a small Louisiana town regularly get together at Truvy’s beauty salon and talk about stuff. The frequently revived play certainly has its virtues—Robert Harling’s dialogue is witty, the characters have enough depth to give actors something to chew on, and the story is sweet, shallow, and inoffensive—but if you go hoping to learn something new about the world, you are at the wrong show. 

Steel Magnolias
Through 8/7: Wed 1:30 PM, Thu 1:30 and 8 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 6 PM; Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, 630-530-0111,, $64-$79

The current revival at Drury Lane, directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, brings out the best in Harling’s material. The pitch-perfect cast makes all of Harling’s lines glitter; they flesh out this rather slow-moving—and at times very predictable—slice-of-life narrative. (Believe me, over the course of this two-hour-plus play, you will have lots of time to drink in Angela Weber Miller’s wonderful, eye-pleasing set.) Every actor in the ensemble gets her star turn, and makes the best of it. Janet Ulrich Brooks is particularly winning as the sharp-tongued local eccentric, Ouiser.