BWW Reviews: THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE at Round House Theatre is Not for the Faint of Heart
Let me begin by asserting I am a huge fan of almost anything Irish from the great music, to the gorgeous country (I'm made two visits), the lovely music, and finally Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.
I have seen four of his plays beginning with the Broadway production of THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE starring Kate Burton in 1999, THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, A SKULL IN CONNEMARA, and THE PILLOWMAN.
Directing this production of LEENANE is Jeremy Skidmore who did such a masterful job of directing McDonagh's INISHMAAN at the the Signature Theatre. I thus was very much looking forward to seeing how the Round House Theatre under Skidmore's direction would handle this "black" comedy which takes place in the small remote town of Lennane, Connemara, in County Galway on the northwest coast of Ireland.
The play takes place in a claustrophobic kitchen where there is one flourescent light over the sink, a single bulb in a hallway, a rocking chair and one kitchen chair. Obviously, the Folan family doesn't entertain much. A kitchen without one table, except a TV tray table so 70 year old mother Mag can eat while watching a small black and white television (waiting for the news). Mag, the wonderful Sarah Marshall, is being constantly waited upon by her forty-something virginal daughter Maureen played by the amazing Kimberly Gilbert.
Mag wants to avoid the inevitable nursing home existance and Maureen yearns for a time when she'll be free of caring for her cranky mother. She's tired of this relationship and having to deal with her mother's urine (pronounced like wine) infection and her habit of dumping her dish full of urine down the kitchen sink.
Maureen thankfully has a suitor in the name of Pato Dooley (played by the terrific Todd Scofield who I recall was so brilliant in the Olney Theatre's production of NEVILLE'S ISLAND) who's a construction worker and has taken a liking to Maureen. Pato is clearly thinking of a long-term relationship with Maureen.
Maureen's mother obviously sees this probability and plots to prevent Pato from coming between her and her daughter.
Pato's brother Ray (played by the naive and funny Joe Mallon) provides comic relief (and it is needed).
Certainly one of the highlights of the evening is when Act II begins, Pato standing in the front of the audience, not the stage, has an incredible monologue about his time in England working construction and his hope of moving to Boston and bringing along Maureen. Pato sends a letter to Maureen via his brother with specific instructions to deliver the letter in person to Maureen explaining his plan. I won't say more.
Skidmore skillfully directs the play which features a lovely simple set design by Tony Cisek (which features the typical Irish stone walls),effectifve costumes by Frank Labovitz, and Sound Design by Eric Shimelonis.
My one major complaint deals with the Irish accents which were under the tutelage of Dialect Coach Leigh Wilson Smiley. While I had no problem understanding the two males in the play, many times one needed sur titles to understand Mag. The accent was just too thick. The same applied occasionally to Maureen. An audience member who has a home in County Galway had the same complaint. Hopefully, in time, the accents will become more understandable.
Even with this criticism, I highly recommend this production. You may leave the theatre maybe in a state of shock but you'll be glad you came.
There is also some wonderful Irish music used between scenes and I suggest it should be used as audience members take their seats to get into the mood.
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE continues to September 15, 2013. Tickets range from $10 to $45 and may be purchased by calling 240-644-1100 or online at www.roundhousetheatre.org.
On Sept. 2 and Sept. 10, side orchestra and side balcony seats are offered at a discounted price of $10.