Martin McDonagh’s darkly twisted comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane comes to dank and dirty life in this production, playing now through December 18 at The Mark Taper Forum.
The story centers around forty-year old Irish spinster Maureen Folan (Aisling O’Sullivan) and her mother Mag (Marie Mullen). Maureen serves as caretaker to her sickly mother. What devolves into a series of shocking events between mother and daughter is accentuated perfectly in this spot-on production. The tone of the piece is captured exquisitely by scenic designer Francis O’Conner’s gray palate, and dazzling rain effect upstage. At times it appeared as if sheets of rain were falling just outside the house.
Marie Mullen and Aisling O’Sullivan are a dynamic duo. The tension between the two is palpable from the moment the play starts. There is a sense that these women have been living in this world for a long time, and we as the audience have to catch up to them. But the dynamic between them is so visceral, we are eager to follow them down this rabbit hole. As Maureen, Aisling O’Sullivan was wonderfully understated and powerful. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of her.
She plays into the plainness of Maureen with a depth and sincerity that shines through at all times. Maureen, being a virgin, and forty-years old, potentially discovers a way out of the co-dependent mess that is her relationship with her mother in Ray (Aaron Monaghan), a local admirer of Maureen’s who invites her, in a letter, to join him in the U.S. However, Maureen might prove to be a bit too much for this young man, as the story of Maureen and Mag continues it’s downward trajectory. As Pato, Ray’s brother, Marty Rea adds great energy to the stage bringing much needed relief to the piece. Aaron Monaghan as Ray is wonderful. His letter writing scene is a perfect example of what deft comic timing looks like. And indeed all of the humor of this piece is played perfectly by the entire cast. They never fail to hit it just right.
Martin McDonagh has written a twisted, hilarious and dark play. He paints an Irish landscape that is bleak, and tragic, and wallowing in despair, and yet keeps the audience either laughing or gasping in shock most of the time. Director Garry Hynes, who also directed, and won a Tony for the original Broadway production, composes a beautifully dark tale matched with equal parts stunning scenic and lighting design, and compelling performances. If there are any moments in the play that don’t live up to the greatness of the production, they come near the end, during a pivotal scene. There are moments where the direction goes off kilter just a bit and the plausibility of them don’t land as strongly as they should in a production that is full of great moments. But all in all, this is a tremendously good, relentlessly funny, unnerving evening of theater that you shouldn’t miss.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Garry Haynes
Nov. 9- Dec. 18 2016
(213) 628-2772 or online at http://www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. Tickets range from $25 – $85 (ticket prices are subject to change).
The Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.