Irish theater company Druid makes its BAM debut with a 20th-anniversary revival of Martin McDonagh’s Tony-nominated pitch-black comedy about a very dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. More…
The first in McDonagh's trilogy of plays set in the sodden Irish backwater of Leenane, 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' tells the story of 40-year-old spinster Maureen Folan, who lives with her mother Mag in a dreamless hovel. The two trade insults and injuries in a vicious cycle of loveless care-taking until a glimmer of romance for Maureen sets in motion a chain of events as hilarious as it is terrifying. Druid co-founder Marie Mullen—who won a Tony for her performance as Maureen in the original Broadway mounting—ages into the fearsome role of Mag under the direction of co-founder and artistic director Garry Hynes, who also won a Tony for helming that production.
"Laceratingly funny and boisterously vicious…This production is every bit as breathtaking as the original…'Beauty Queen'—with McDonagh’s virtuosic language and Hynes’ remarkable production—remains true…As memorable as Mullen was in 1998, she instantly overtakes herself when the lights come up at BAM. Her Mag is monumental...O’Sullivan gives a matching performance as Maureen...The electricity is so high-voltage that it is as if we received a double clout from the pair.” Full Review
"The show is being revived in stupendous fashion…This is the most assured production of a McDonagh work that I've ever seen…’The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ unfolds with clockwork, almost merciless precision…Credit there to Hynes, who by now clearly understands how to play every moment of this drama for maximum impact, and to this cast, which I think is even stronger than the excellent original troupe. O'Sullivan is devastatingly effective." Full Review
"In a word, authentic describes Druid’s impeccable revival of Martin McDonagh’s brilliant 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane.' Authenticity, too, applies to the thick Irish accents, which are foreign to this American ear..There’s nothing incomprehensible about the wicked and violent tension between stay-at-home caregiver daughter and iron-willed, bellyaching mother played with perfect timing by Aisling O’Sullivan and Marie Mullen...A masterpiece of modern Irish drama." Full Review
"A sharp, stellar production...McDonagh’s acerbic dialogue pops to life, threatening at all times to maim with its power. The excellent cast proves adroit with such a potent script, and the result is a production that manages to be at once haunting and a whole lot of fun…’Beauty Queen’ is full of McDonagh’s trademark wit and caustic worldview, but this production finds its great strength in the performances at its center…In these experienced and skillful hands, McDonagh’s play bursts to life." Full Review
“The gasps and shocked laughter happened in all the right places. McDonagh's portrait of boredom, loneliness, and skullduggery in the west of Ireland has lost none of its power to amuse -- and appall...In his first play, McDonagh displays a knack for dramatic construction that some playwrights never achieve…Nobody understands McDonagh's work better than Garry Hynes, who ensures that this production moves confidently to its macabre double-twist ending." Full Review
"A horrifyingly hilarious play. Laced with wit so dry your laughs will fall like tumbleweeds…The brilliance of 'Beauty Queen' is that it is an extremely sad play whose sadism is veiled in quick sarcasm. It finds its life in the lack of life of its two leads and, if it were not for McDonagh's intelligent writing, one could get lost in the ensuing darkness that develops between Mag and Maureen…I cannot reiterate enough the radiance of O'Sullivan and Mullen as a performing pair." Full Review
"As Mag, Marie Mullen is a grotesque (and devilishly funny) 'Mommie Dearest.' Daughter Maureen, played by the feisty Aisling O’Sullivan, gives as good as she gets...Garry Hynes’s meticulous direction distinguishes her as the authoritative interpreter of McDonagh’s work...Above all, McDonagh’s wicked sense of black humor and his ability to create colorful characters are the talents that distinguish him as one of the most successful playwrights of his generation." Full Review
"Its sad truths and perverse humor have not lost their power…With all the history and success, a ‘Beauty Queen’ revival is a no-brainer. It’s also a must-see…Depressing? Yes, but also grimly hilarious…’Leenane’ allows its characters to do incredibly ugly things, but also creates moments of sincere sweetness between the gasps and the guilty laughs. Just like Mag does to Maureen, the play will toy with your emotions; and just like Maureen with Mag, it’ll stick with you." Full Review
"McDonagh's tale still produces the intended gasps 20 years on…Mullen gives an inscrutable and highly realistic performance as Mag…Together, Mag and Maureen make a perfect picture of mother-daughter codependence. Hynes directs the play with special attention to the relationships between characters…'Beauty Queen' has some surprisingly astute things to say about the gulf between desire and responsibility, especially as it pertains to the immigrant experience." Full Review
"An excellent ensemble in a thoroughly engaging bit of storytelling that's both humorous and horrific…The remarkable feat of the writing, direction and acting is that both characters are equal parts repulsive and sympathetic and the conflict is both funny and ugly…Though the playwright describes Maureen as plain-looking, O'Sullivan appears on stage as, by most anyone's standards, a striking beauty, which distracts a bit from the reality of the situation, but she is convincing." Full Review
"Nearly two decades since its Broadway debut, Martin McDonagh’s breakthough play retains the power to tickle the funny bone and turn the stomach...The cast grips all of the darkly amusing and dangerous curves in his unflinching story. The riveting Aisling O’Sullivan shades her star turn as the desperate daughter with vulnerability and venom…The play isn’t all that subtle or always easy to watch. But it’s richly theatrical and satisfying. Every beauty queen should age so well." Full Review
"McDonagh's writing is filled with suspense and nail-biting moments; and this excellent four-member cast makes good use of the theatrical zigs and zags he gives them...The size of the playing area permits—and, perhaps, encourages—the performers to take on a collective style that's broader, more comedic, and altogether less intense than in the earlier version...The war between the Folan women is likely to find a prominent place among audiences' theatergoing memories." Full Review
"Perhaps Martin McDonagh’s finest achievement, even beyond a Londoner re-creating a rural Irish milieu to perfection, is his latent ability to balance sympathies between the two leading characters...Do not miss out on a chance to enjoy a slice of recent theatre history and the chance to witness Marie Mullen and Aisling O’Sullivan delivering performances to die for." Full Review
"Directed in a subtle, crafty manner and acted with enthusiasm and invention, it’s an affecting, memorable night...Mullen takes the grand risk of being devious and ugly here and while there might be a few too many moments of mugging, there is compelling clarity and strength in the portrayal. As lead Maureen, Aisling O’Sullivan is fiery, brooding, sexy, and amusing...The men give two outstanding, bravura performances." Full Review
"Has aged well for a four-character, one-room play...The dialogue between Mag and Maureen is rhythmic and their delivery percussive...Marty Rea thrives as Pato Dooley, seizing on each of the most subtle facets of a character single-handedly responsible for the action that results in other characters’ reactions...Direction by Druid Theatre co-founder Garry Hynes gives power to these words, ensuring their import is not only not lost, but accentuated." Full Review
“As riveting as ever. Maybe, this time around it’s even funnier and less oppressive than what I remember but without losing one shade of darkness...The brilliance of McDonagh’s writing is that it has the perfect balance of humor and darkness, rolled up and seconds apart. I had forgotten how this play wraps up in the end and found myself as shocked as everyone else. ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ packs a powerful punch in the end, even after all the laughs.” Full Review
"The wonderfully written and performed letter monologue is a highlight, but the contents make instantly clear where the plot will be going. Still, even more egregious tests of credibility and dramaturgic validity lie ahead, especially in the closing minutes and their foreshadowed violence. Nonetheless, McDonagh's ripe, broguish language, his feisty characterizations, and the richly voiced, emotionally honest, and comically vibrant acting, keep you constantly engrossed." Full Review
"'Beauty Queen' may be funny in the way a YouTube video of a man diving into a frozen pool can be, but it’s no comedy. Rather, it exists somewhat beyond our traditional genre definitions, encompassing many of them...For all its laughs it’s also a tragedy, in which even the satisfaction of Maureen’s prime objective fails to make a difference. She just becomes Mag instead of fighting her. Or would if Hines’s generally expert staging didn’t falter slightly in its interpretation of the women." Full Review
“A solidly entertaining revival. Notable among the cast is Mullen, the original Maureen, now old enough to play the wheedling, malingering Mag. Mullen makes a full meal of her role, which, perversely, grows more pathetic the meaner she gets...With these vibrant, lusty performers at the controls, the grim machinery of McDonagh’s amoral morality tale clicks into place: so ugly you can’t take your eyes off it." Full Review
"Though the dialogue can sound twee, this plausibly represents pastiche as part of McDonagh’s drive to transform Stage-Irish convention into Grand Guignol nightmare. That vein of macabre fantasy means that though 'Beauty Queen' has already become a period piece, it does not feel dated. And under Garry Hynes’s characteristically forceful direction, the play’s repeated lurches between hope and despair, love and hatred, and wit and misery remain jarringly poignant." Full Review
"Doesn’t so much confirm that McDonagh’s first hit is a terrific play, but that, like all great plays, it can be done differently, even though the director, Garry Hynes, guided the original...In this production Hynes has brought out more subtly the cruelty and pain in both women...The actors are all superb...There are only a couple quibbles. The Irish accents are really thick, and it’s a struggle to attune one’s ear to them. And an important scene falls flat." Full Review
"Aisling O'Sullivan shows off the breadth of her skill. It's a complex role, marinating in fury, luxuriating in fortune, and ending in DuBois-like madness...Marty Rea, as Maureen's love interest, has a giddy and awkward boyish charm that makes him more likable and thus amplifies the tragedy...Mullen is both larger than life and devastatingly human. The overbearing mother is a familiar theatrical trope, and Mullen understands the way McDonagh both embraces and plays on that tradition." Full Review
"The four characters are more overtly comic than they were before...They’re more companionable than they used to be. That means they’re also less likely to creep into your nightmares and break your heart...You’re more aware of the jokes as jokes, and also of the dramatist’s calculations behind the twists of plot...If this 'Beauty Queen' lacks the power to rattle as its first version did, it still makes for a smooth, easily digested evening’s entertainment." Full Review
"This fierce black comedy is part of a trilogy of plays...All three explore poverty and desperation in Ireland and how it can lead people to turn on each other. But O'Sullivan and Mullen keep the sometimes-grisly events in 'Beauty Queen' from becoming too grim to bear. They both have an undercurrent of vulnerability which keeps them from being pure monsters and instead, explains something about the human condition: we are the way we are because someone taught us to be that way." Full Review
"[W]e are treated to a gorgeous language that possesses more musicality than any by an Irish dramatist since Beckett ... this revival of his first play reminds us that his spirit of rage, anarchism, and gallows humor has burned with consistent intensity for the last twenty years." Full Review
See it if You would like a modern play reminiscent of Chekhov's tragicomedies, with super acting and excellent staging and directing.
Don't see it if don't like complex emotional dramas.
See it if you enjoy tragicomedies with great acting and ironic writing. The cast is simply superb
Don't see it if you have no sense of humour and you take things at face value. The play is uncomfortably real and nuanced
See it if you want to see some of the best acting of the season. Fully realized characters. Sparkling script. Wonderful.
Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with dark comedy or if your mother tormented you when you were young.
See it if You love great writing, acting and want to be swept away with laughter and tears watching a poetic tragedy unfold. Mysterious. Unresolvable.
Don't see it if challenging material and unexplained plot twists or strong Irish accents bother you. If you don't like surprises, stay home.
See it if you like exquisite writing, fantastic acting & drama that will take your breath away from both the beauty and horror of what is before you.
Don't see it if You have a problem with Irish accents or don't like language driven plays that require full out concentration and immersion.
See it if You want a taut, thrilling play to engage and surprise you. If you're a fan of Martin McDonagh's work. You can handle a monologue.
Don't see it if Sex, violence (including elder abuse), and rampant profanity is a dealbreaker for you. Or if you struggle with understanding accents.
See it if You like dark humor, you can handle some heartbreak, and you love McDonough. I believe he is one of the best! Great performances, writing...
Don't see it if You want something warm and fuzzy, uplifting and life affirming, generic and child friendly. This is serious stuff.
See it if You like Irish plays that take your emotions on a roller coaster ride;mother-daughter drama at its best;exquisite cast from the Druids
Don't see it if You expect an action-packed play and dislike listening to dialogue spoken in a strong Irish accent; Dislike violence and elder abuse
See it if You are a Martin McDonagh fan and appreciate great acting.
Don't see it if You aren't willing to travel to BAM or you can't afford orchestra seats. Hard to understand the Irish accents from the balcony.
See it if you have a taste for very black comedy, superlative acting, and penetrating writing about the destructive nature of stagnation.
Don't see it if you don't want to listen very carefully. This one requires full attention.
See it if you want compelling acting in a well crafted play about the desperate cruelty people who are supposed to love each other use
Don't see it if you want to be entertained by happy people in uplifting circumstances This is tough life about people who destroy each other to try to live
See it if You like dark comedy-drama with great acting. You won't be disappointed!
Don't see it if Find it hard to grasp Irish brogue. At the beginning it is a little hard to understand the actors.
See it if Enjoy old school tragic drama. Cathartic inter family relationships Irish writing and insight at it's best
Don't see it if Not interested in an intense evening Of thought provoking drama
Also Try the free earphones if you have difficulty with the accents
See it if great acting in McDonagh's very funny play about the depressing lives of a mother and daughter stuck in a small town in Ireland.
Don't see it if you want a sunny outlook in a play. You don't want to see heartbreaking story or want to hear bickering women at each others throats.
See it if you want to see a classic black comedy redone extremely well; you can find humor in the darkness of humanity
Don't see it if you need your humor to be light; you don't enjoy small, nuanced projections
See it if You enjoy dark, dark comedy. This is typical McDonagh-- funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. The actors are amazingly specific.
Don't see it if Your ears are lazy and you don't want to have to decipher heavy Irish accents. Family violence, abuse, and in-fighting turns your stomach.
See it if you are up for an intense play that will take you for a ride of the worst of the human being condition... appropriate for these times!
Don't see it if you are looking for a light show during these dark times... not a feel good play. It will haunt you for some time.
See it if you're a fan of dark humor, Irish plays, Irish humor, kitchen sink dramas, mother/daughter stories
Don't see it if you'll have difficulty following thick Irish accents or if you'll be disturbed by a scene of elder abuse and don't find dark humor funny
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