The Beauty Queen
by Martin McDonagh
March 23 - April 14, 2001
Directed by Rhonda Clark
The line between comedy and tragedy has always been a fine one in real life, and just as precarious as a high wire in many theatrical stories. Indeed, in Martin McDonagh's play "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," the comedy turns darker and deeper as the story unfolds.
CST's production marks the Oklahoma premier of this riveting Irish tale.
Set in Leenane, a small town in Connemara, County Galway, in a country cottage, the play is ideal for the intimate arena theater at Stage Center, which is home to Carpenter Square.
Audiences have the feeling of peeking through the windows where a possessive mother and her spinster daughter live as though locked in mutual bondage. Elderly Mag Folan watches TV all day, hunched in her rocker, while 40-year-old Maureen
stews in the juice of desperation. The two swap silly demands and insults in a game of one-upmanship that, apparently, has gone on for many years. The game is fueled by Mag's fear of abandonment and Maureen's dreams of escape.
Hope soon presents itself in the person of Pato Dooley who takes a shine to Maureen. Indeed, the title of the play, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," comes from Pato's assessment of her after an evening out at a party. When Pato must return to his construction job in London and wants to re-kindle their relationship, his dim-witted, younger brother Ray
becomes their unreliable, impertinent go-between.
More of the story should not be told because of the secrets and twists in the plot, except to say that playwright McDonagh spins a story that can make one laugh out loud one minute and curl one's hair with horror the next.
"We read this play and others by Martin McDonagh, and enjoyed it so much that we waited anxiously for the performing rights to be released. We've been wanting to produce an Irish play for a long time, and especially loved the unique characters and odd mix of comedy and drama in this one," says director Clark. "Wherever it's produced, praise for the quality of the writing runs high."
Martin McDonagh is easily the most lauded new playwright and the proverbial overnight success story. A born Londoner and a high school dropout, he worked as a clerk in the civil service, stealing stationery to write his stories on. When he had no luck with his short stories, radio scripts and screenplays, he began writing plays set in Ireland where his parents were born and have retired. He says the comic, lonely misfits in his work are the voices he hears in his head: "It's like transcribing other people talking." In particular, the voices of his uncles in Ireland inspire the language in his
In 1997, he had four plays running simultaneously in London. The year 1998 brought sold out performances of "Beauty Queen" in New York, followed soon by a run of "The Cripple of Inishmaan."
The long list of awards that "Beauty Queen" brought McDonagh is astonishing. They include: The 1997 Evening Standard Award and the London Critics' Circle Award for most promising playwright; New York's Drama Desk, Drama League, Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics' Circle Awards for best play of 1998; Time Magazine's number one Best of Theater Award. The New York production itself garnered four Tony Awards, and director Garry Hynes made Tony history as the first woman to receive the award for
Best Director of a Play.