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BWW Review: Tony Winners Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen Revisit Martin McDonagh's THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

The 1998 Tony Award ceremony was quite a history-making night, as THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE's Garry Hynes became the first woman to be awarded the prize for directing a play. Her honor was received mere minutes before THE LION KING's Julie Taymor became the first woman awarded a Tony for directing a musical.

BWW Review: Tony Winners Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen Revisit Martin McDonagh's THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

Marie Mullen and Aisling O'Sullivan
(Photo: Richard Termine)

That premiere production of Martin McDonagh's darkly funny drama came to Broadway via Galway's Druid Theatre Company, and its leading lady, Marie Mullen, scored a Tony as well.

Back then Mullen was playing Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old woman living in veritable isolation in the Irish village of Leenane. Her life revolves around caring for her 70-year-old mother, Mag, who uses her frailty and neediness to manipulate her daughter, keeping her unmarried so as to avoid confinement to a nursing home.

Now Mullen returns to the piece in Druid's remounting, once again directed by Hynes and playing a limited run at BAM's Harvey Theater, but this time as the controlling Mag. She's joined by an excellent ensemble in a thoroughly engaging bit of storytelling that's both humorous and horrific.

As with the original production, set and costume designer Francis O'Connor's sparsely furnished, run-down home and drab clothing provide the depressing visuals that accompany the hateful mother/daughter bickering. The play opens with Mullen's sullen, pitiable Mag sitting alone until the abrasive, rain-soaked Maureen (Aisling O'Sullivan) enters, ready to face the day's annoyances. Mag continually complains that the porridge Maureen makes for her is lumpy. Maureen complains that Mag is not so frail that she can't pick up after herself. Mag empties pots full of her urine into the kitchen sink with dishes and utensils still in them. Maureen spitefully only buys the brand of biscuits Mag hates.

BWW Review: Tony Winners Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen Revisit Martin McDonagh's THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
Marty Rae and Aisling O'Sullivan
(Photo: Richard Termine)

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. Eventually, when Mag starts interfering with what Maureen believes to be her last chance to get a man interested in marrying her, the play turns violent.

Aaron Monaghan lightens the mood as their goofy, dim-witted neighbor Ray, whose visiting brother, Pato (Marty Rae, sporting working class charm and sincerity) takes a fancy to Maureen, even calling her a beauty queen. O'Sullivan is heartbreaking as she attempts to seduce the gent, barely covering her desperation.

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 as a woman who believes her chances at finding romance are nearly gone.



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