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The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great writing, Intense, Funny
85
Critics
83
34 reviews
Members
85
106 reviews
 

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.

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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.

 

Cast & Creatives (12)



Reviews (140)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
83
Avg Score

75
The New York Times

"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

85
Theatermania

"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

85
BroadwayWorld

"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

80
Time Out New York

“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

95
The Huffington Post

"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

80
New York Magazine / Vulture

"'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

90
Lighting & Sound America

“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

80
Theatre's Leiter Side

"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

85
New York Daily News

"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

81
Front Mezz Junkies

“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

65
Woman Around Town

"McDonagh is skillful at manipulating an audience. When we’re aware he’s doing it, tension is nonetheless maintained...Aisling O’Sullivan’s Maureen's seduction of Pato is insufficiently desperate...Nor is the end as powerful as it might be...Marty Rea’s Pato Dooley may be the best thing on stage. The actor is straight-from-the-hip credible...Director Garry Hynes is a good hand at visual stage use and pacing. Unfortunately intelligibility is an issue here." Full Review

80
Financial Times (UK)

"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

90
Theatre is Easy

"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

95
NJ.com

"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

85
CurtainUp

"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

75
WNYC

"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

95
Off Script with Dan Dwyer

"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

80
Off Off Online

"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

75
scribicide

"[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

90
Theater Pizzazz

"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

85
British Theatre Guide

"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

95
Exeunt Magazine

"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

90
Diandra Reviews it All

"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

70
Village Voice

"The play is as biting and horrific as ever, but a constriction of energy has settled on the whole affair, leaving it unable to explode the way it needs to….McDonagh's script would succeed in the worst situations; Druid's polished if staid revival hardly fits that description. If the gasps emanating from the audience at 'Beauty Queen's' surprise grisly turn are any indication, a new generation of horrified admirers is now being born—even if this particular show leaves a few goosebumps unraised." Full Review

85
Escape Into Life

"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
85
Avg Score

90
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Great writing

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.

75
Tense, Numbing, Twisty, Inexorable, Black

See it if Never seen McDonagh, as a relatively bloodless entree, to mourn a viciously missed connection, for all the feels of the Marty Rea monologue

Don't see it if Can't understand thick Irish accents or vernacular, esp from up in the balcony, looking for a happy ending, want to like the main characters

83
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy smart bitingly funny comedies with an edge that is both heartbreaking and beautiful

Don't see it if You have a really hard time understanding irish accents. I definitely missed some jokes because of the accents

84
Funny, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you enjoy honest story telling with real, human reactions. And, not disappointed with the outcome!

Don't see it if heavy brogue makes it difficult to comprehend, and having to rely on interaction between characters.

94
Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Great writing

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.

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you want to see a well written play performed by masterful actors. I am a fan of Martin McDonagh.

Don't see it if you don't like dark plays. Accents are a bit difficult to understand at the beginning.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Riveting

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

82
Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you relish great acting, well drawn characters and intense relationships.

Don't see it if you crave happy endings and easy to like characters.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Resonant

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.

65
Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Great writing, Slow

See it if You want to witness a fantastic staging of this dark play. Performances are perfect. Takes you on an intense journey and leaves you stirred.

Don't see it if This play was done in too big of a space. Was hard to connect to story because of difficulty to hear. Be prepared for a wild ride.

15
Disappointing, Excruciating, Dated, Accents were horrible

See it if I would love to talk to people who claim they liked this show. The Accents and all the acting was way over the top. I have been wanting to

Don't see it if see this show for years and have never been more disappointed. A show like this should never be done in such a big theater.

92
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Great writing

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

Also As you probably read, Marie Mullen, who played the role of the daughte... Read more Read less

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Slow

See it if You love Martin McDonagh, or would enjoy an extremely dark, yet comic Irish drama.

Don't see it if You expect the humor of "Lieutenant of Inishmore". This isn't as raucous a comedy -- it focuses on familial mental illness.

85
Dark, Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like quirky humor and Irish accent. You like family dramas. The actings (esp. two females) are magnificent!

Don't see it if You enjoy funny plays. You don't want to see death in the play. This one is a little bit too depressing for me.

85
Funny, Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if see it for Martin McDonagh's great writing brilliantly serviced by an incredible cast of four. A slow burn of a play, but gripping.

Don't see it if if you aren't able to really sit with characters for the evening. It's a slow play, but your patience is rewarded.

84
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Disturbing

See it if you want a good Irish story, an intense drama about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that is disturbing but that also has humor

Don't see it if you don't want a disturbing suspenseful story offset with humor; or if you don't want to see emotional & physical abuse or hear profanity

Also 1. Irish accents are more difficult to understand in a bigger theater ... Read more Read less

83
Too grim for top-grade mcdonagh

See it if first-rate Irish actors in authentic Irish milieu. Mullen, Monaghan and Rea are priceless. Directed by Hynes, no one does Irish better.

Don't see it if you like your McDonagh leavened with humor. Accents are a bit challenging. I preferred Cripple Billy and Lieutenant of Inishmore

80
Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you like family dramas. This one is about the dysfunctional relationship between an adult woman and the invalid mother with whom she lives.

Don't see it if you dislike dark shows and/or shows with twisted humor.

93
Intense, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great writing, Excruciating

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.

Also A searing play that left me in mild shock on its conclusion. Truly exc... Read more Read less

70
Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great staging

See it if If you're interested in seeing master-class acting; a not-to-be-missed plot twist. Or If you don't mind seeing a dysfunctional family play.

Don't see it if If you might have trouble sitting through a two-hours and fifteen minute four- character play where the actors all have heavy Irish accents.

91
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Great writing

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

78
Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if You think, as I do, that Martin McDonagh can do no wrong. It is a very entertaining play which has had better productions.

Don't see it if You have no tolerance for black humor

71
Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you want to experience the tragic story of a troubled Irish family... the acting is superb.

Don't see it if you need an uplifting story.... this play can be funny ( at moments ) but definitely has no happy ending

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You can appreciate dueling, dysfunctional characters and truly funny - but very dark writing

Don't see it if You are easily shocked or offended by bad behavior........

83
Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Great writing

See it if you like intense yet funny Irish dramas. great acting and intelligent writing.

Don't see it if you want light and airy. although funny, it's a disturbing piece