Theatre Preview: The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Henley Street Theater
The titular beauty referred to in “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” lies not in outward appearance, but in playwright Martin McDonagh’s ability to make you feel uncomfortable. A story about a family working against itself while simultaneously being dependent on each other, Henley Street Theatre’s upcoming production offers Richmond audiences an engaging and often difficult view into what life can look like at the end of the world.
Middle-aged spinster Maureen lives on the outskirts of a small Irish village with her elderly and agitated mother Mag. Yearning for a chance at love and ultimately escape, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” the journey of two characters that have such an honest and compelling dynamic between them that you can’t help but cringe.
“It’s certainly about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. The daughter is older and has one last chance for love, and her mother has… other plans,” says Henley Street founder and managing director Jacquie O’Connor. “It used to be this big secret. You used to have to pretend everything was okay within your family. The June Cleaver mom and the Beav – it’s not that way anymore.”
What is family without being at odds with each other? This is a theme McDonagh weaves seamlessly into his work and what makes him one of the top playwrights of our generation. Though Irish culture and often-strange colloquialisms are heavily featured, his comprehension of sentence structure and humor is so sharp that anyone who’s been in the heat of an argument with family can instantly relate.
“Where we used to be able to say things like ‘those Irish, they’re are a people of angst,’ I think we Americans are a people of angst too. We’re closer to each other than we know, which is why we can identify with this kind of humor,” says O’Connor.
Audiences will recognize Richmond favorites Jill Bari Steinberg, Mary Best Bova, and Tony Foley in the leading roles, as well as newcomer Alexander Sapp. The show is helmed by acclaimed writer and director Bo Wilson. “This a very specific type of play, a black comedy,” says O’Connor, “and there has to be humor within the horrific things that you are seeing and hearing. I think Bo understands that fully.”
The show certainly leaves you with something that needs to be discussed, and O’Connor hopes audiences will leave wanting to talk about it. “And maybe the next time you’re having an argument with someone in your family you’ll think about this play and go, OK, maybe there’s another way to go about this.”
Performances begin May 24th and run through June 15that SPARC – 2106A North Hamilton Street, with a preview on May 23rd. Talk-backs with the director and cast follow the 2pm performances on June 2nd and 9th. You can purchase tickets by phone at 1-888-695-0888 or at www.HenleyStreetTheatre.org.
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