Steel Magnolias 

Laughing through your tears performs minor miracles in the Saturday-morning haven of six Louisiana ladies. Robert Harling's play, set in a hair salon, is more intimate than his 1989 screenplay, which mistakenly introduced the ladies' idiot men, but it's still handicapped by a final scene in which one woman's grief morphs into an irrelevant physical gag. Easy Street Players' warmhearted revival captures the characters' sisterly solidarity, and Justin Amellio's staging is less vulgar and more gracious than other productions I've seen. Meredith Wood's big-hearted, big-haired Truvy holds the hilarity together, and Pamela Tierney and Ashley Bush are beautifully believable as a mother and daughter tested beyond bearing. Nearly tanking it all, however, is Denise Santomauro's performance as crotchety, eccentric Ouiser: 30 years too young for the part, she forces the feistiness, and what should be the funniest role in the play falls flat. Through 8/21: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM. Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio theater, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. $15-$20.

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