The Beauty Queen of Leenane: May you have half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.
There’s waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and then there’s waking up on the wrong side of the planet. Unfortunately, this is nearly a daily occurrence in the play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
There’s waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and then there’s waking up on the wrong side of the planet. Unfortunately for Maureen Folan (Jill Bari Steinberg) and her mother Mag (Mary Best Bova), this is nearly a daily occurrence in the play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Written by Martin McDonagh, and premiered in 1996, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a dark comedy set in the Irish village of Leenane. The play features four characters, each locked in vicious combat due to their extreme personalities. Maureen (40-years-old) is the resentful daughter of her mother Mag. Given the role of caretaker for her 70-year-old, manipulative mother when her two sisters married and moved away, Maureen is desperate for escape and filled with spite. While we do find out later in the play that Maureen has a history of mental illness, Mag is no saint either, and her moments of insanity unfold through a series of events (like emptying her bedpan in the kitchen sink). Throughout the play it seems as though their sole purpose for coexisting is to make each other’s lives miserable—at least they’re on the same page!
Pato Dooley (Tony Foley) and his younger brother Ray Dooley (Alexander Sapp) also make appearances in the Folan cottage—one to court Maureen by rekindling an old romance (Pato), and the other to taunt Mag (Ray). Both appear similarly desperate for happiness, but not nearly as miserable as Maureen and Mag. Pato gives Maureen a glimmer of hope for a better life, while unknowingly riling up Mag’s fear of being left alone. Ray, however, offers great comic relief (as most younger brothers do) to the Folan’s tragic life.
The Folan cottage is the set for the entire play, which consists of a dimly lit kitchen/living room combo that is slightly claustrophobic. The design of the set (by Tennessee Dixon) and lighting (by Michael Jarrett) are perfect compliments to the feelings of entrapment all four characters express in one way or another.
The play is not only full of trickery and betrayal, but also presents surprises, witty lines, and a refreshing display of honest behavior—aptly performed by the select cast. Steinberg beautifully conveys a combination of misery, hope, and resignation. Bova and Sapp exhibit an uncanny relationship that is (humorously) filled with hatred. Foley is undeniably charming and provides the closest form of “normal” behavior you’ll see in the two-hour play.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane builds together the comic and the horrific, naturally displaying a human drama that’s not to be missed.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs through June 15th. Tickets are available online.
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Why you should see this show
You want to walk away feeling slightly more normal than you did when you came in.
Why you should stay home
The thought of Complan makes your stomach turn.