Due to its immense well-deserved popularity, the Drury Lane has extended its run of Steel Magnolias by playwright, Robert Harling, from June 10 through August 7, 2022. Robert Harling knows how to make you laugh while tugging at your heartstrings. He wrote the original Steel Magnolia play first as a short story based on his sister, Susan’s death at only 33 years old, due to complications from Type I diabetes. A friend suggested it would be a cathartic exercise for his overwhelming grief and remembrance for his young nephew, Susan’s son. He soon realized that his strength was presenting a storyline in dialogue so the short story became his first play honoring the women who nurtured and supported his sister.
Harling grew up in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and has an ear for capturing the love, support, beauty, strength, and side-splitting crazy idiosyncrasies of the women he knew while growing up in the South. He graduated from Tulane Law with a Juris Doctorate but never sat for the bar. He moved to New York to become an actor, writer, and producer, his true passionate calling. In 1987 his play Steel Magnolias received notice debuting at the off-Broadway WPA Theater. He also went on to write the screenplay for the 1989 film starring Julia Roberts.
Johanna McKenzie Miller in her directorial debut with the Drury Lane Theater Steel Magnolias shows us that through simple ordinary occurrences of everyday life like sharing recipes and town gossip, extraordinary truths become evident. Miller truly understands that life can change in an ordinary instant. She presents six women who come to Truvy’s beauty spot to be accepted for who they authentically are. They mirror the beautiful substantial Magnolia flower that is both delicate, and short-lived, with extremely tough carpels. The ensemble has a steely core; they are a stellar cast. Their witty repartee and rapid-fire comebacks had the audience roaring with laughter. Their comedic timing and deliveries are flawless. They are the Golden Girls on steroids.
Janet Ulrich Brooks, cast as Ouiser Boudreaux, a divorced dog owner and gardener, delivers just the right amount of sardonic, sarcastic, hard-edged observations that make the audience applaud her forthrightness. Amy J. Carle portrays M’Lynn the consummate mother, therapist, and wealthy Southern woman who is desperately trying to protect her diabetic daughter. Carle’s range from comedy to drama is impressive. Lillian Castillo plays Annelle who is new to town and starts off a little bit mysterious, but then becomes a Christian religious fanatic who despite her foibles is always sweet and charming. She was my favorite character. Elizabeth Ledo portrays Truvy, the Beauty Spot’s proud owner, who consistently espouses homespun idioms. Elizabeth is a natural in this part. She is a Queen Bee. Her most memorable quote is: “I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.” Susie McMonagle (Clairee) is the quintessential Grande Dame Southern Belle. She is a delight who knows all the best gossip and loves football. Cordelia Dewdney’s portrayal of Shelby effectively shows her steely side, but I did not feel the warmth and Southern hospitality I expected her to exude.
Angela Weber Miller, Scenic Designer, created a charming set with Spanish Moss hanging from the rafters, a turquoise sofa, a fashion magazine rack, and purple swivel beautician chairs. It perfectly communicates the evocative environment. I also enjoyed the Southern country sound design by Sarah Ramos for setting the mood.
There is nothing like live theater where half of the joy comes from experiencing the talent on stage, behind the scenes, and the loud exuberant audience appreciation. Thank you to Drury Lane Productions, Kyle, Abigail, Drew Desantis, Jason, and Tom Van Lente for providing this high level of entertainment that has been nominated for over 360 Joseph Jefferson Awards. The seating is comfortable with plenty of legroom. The Drury Lane is a lavish opulent venue that just glitters with its crystal chandeliers. For the opening night, we first dined at Lucille’s. It is an elegant upscale restaurant with gracious, hospitable servers and premier dining options. We loved our sea bass, iceberg lettuce salad, and carrot puree. The rolling ice cream sundae cart was a wonderful dessert treat with three gelato choices and a myriad of toppings available.
Drury Lane Theatre is very accessible from the city and suburbs. It is located at 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace. Wednesday and Thursday Matinees are at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays Matinee is at 3:00 p.m. Sundays Matinee is AT 2:00 P.M. Thursday through Saturday evening shows are at 8:00 p.m. Single ticket prices are very reasonable $64.00-$79.00. Senior discounts are available on Wednesday and Thursday Matinees. For more information contact Drury Lane Theatre or the Box office phone (630) 530-0111.