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Gotta love Daisy. At 72, the lady is cantankerous, strong-willed, a bit of a pill, and damned if she’s going to grow old gracefully. Those qualities have garnered her a slew of Oscars, Obies, and even a Pulitzer Prize, not to mention the apparently undying affection of audiences, and not surprisingly, they stand her in reasonably good stead at the Olney Theatre. As the lights come up, Daisy (Halo Wines) has just backed her 3-week-old 1948 coupe into the side of her garage (totaling both), and her son, Boolie (David Marks), is wasting his breath explaining to her why he needs to hire her a chauffeur. His choice, an elderly African-American named Hoke (Keith N. Johnson), is as patient as Daisy is cranky—and has roughly as many good-natured misconceptions about her Jewishness as she does about his blackness. Naturally, they end up best of friends, in a chronicle that neatly parallels the advances in civil rights of the era. The show’s leisurely journey would be predictable even if it weren’t familiar from the movie version—she thaws; he asserts himself—but playwright Alfred Uhry knows it’s the getting there, not the destination, that keeps audiences interested. Thomas W. Jones II’s staging is strongest when he’s not allowing—or encouraging—his actors to suffer attacks of the cutes. More sweetness this show doesn’t need; it’s vinegar that’s required. Of the cast members, Johnson seems most aware of that fact, kowtowing to Hoke’s employers in reserved, politely skeptical ways that allow the character to maintain his dignity even when he’s reduced to asking permission to relieve himself on a long drive. Marks overdoes a Christmas drunk scene but is otherwise astute in showing how Boolie patronizes his mother and her driver in similar ways. And when Wines isn’t trying too hard to make Daisy appealing, she’s effective, too. The problem is that her approach seems predicated on the notion that the title character’s edges need softening, when the opposite is more nearly the case. The audience would adore Daisy unadorned, but Wines brings an arsenal of lip-pursing guilty looks, fist-flailing tantrums, and general adorableness to the role. Still, when Daisy gets older—the characters age 25 years during the course of the play—her increasing stiffness and stillness become nicely affecting. Howard Vincent Kurtz’s appropriately quiet costuming and Daniel Conway’s austere setting, mostly columns and sliding doors, are restrained and functional—something that would be nice to say about the production as a whole. —Bob Mondello