As much as many people revere motherhood and elevate that august personage on to a hallowed pedestal, the reality exists that sometimes she’s just a mean, conniving old broad that deserves a sharp comeuppance. Martin McDonagh’s 1996 black comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane addresses the subject explicitly. If well performed, the play can both delight and horrify an audience, while holding it to rapt attention. Greater Lewisville Community Theatre continues its tradition of providing thought-provoking, compelling entertainment in its production of McDonagh’s play, running Friday — Sunday through February 19th.
Ben Brantley describes the play perfectly in his 2/27/98 New York Times review of the Broadway production: “What McDonagh has provided is something exotic in today’s world of self-conscious, style-obsessed theater: a proper, perfectly plotted drama that sets out, above all, to tell a story as convincingly and disarmingly as possible.”
GLCT’s cast, directed handily by Kenny Green, delivers precisely that experience. A tight ensemble of four, they work smoothly together to build natural arcs that develop characters believably and weave a fine, dastardly tale in the blackest of Irish traditions. Leave the theatre bemused, amused and aghast at the turn of events. Nobody makes bleak and dire human disaster funny like the Irish; Green’s production maximizes all the potential offered.
Playing the mean old broad in question, Mag, Dena Dunn goes all in for the kill. Where an audience at first may tend to sympathize with Mag’s predicament, they soon feel the rusty knife-edge of her cruel, demented personality. Dunn plays Mag fearlessly, awash in deceit, misery and contempt, a role that some might launch into caricature. It’s fun to watch Dunn master blending the plaintively comic with tragic elements without going all daytime TV with it. As her daughter Maureen, the deranged object of Mag’s machinations, Kristi Lee Smith brings a warped vulnerability to the role that inspires equal doses of pity and disgust as her secrets reveal themselves. Dunn and Smith “feel” like mother and daughter, grounding the work with brief glimmers of hopeful redemption that builds suspense but never, ever arrives. Absolute chills at fini.
The two male characters in the show drive plot twists and provide comic relief. Brothers Pato and Ray, played with confidence, homespun style and hints of macho charisma by Daniel Bierly and Tyler Cochran, invade Mag and Maureen’s household, equally oblivious to the havoc they wreak and the insanity they inspire. Bierly‘s Pato is the show’s most empathetic character. His depiction of baffled but genuine interest in Maureen paints a convincing picture of lost potential, enlivened with the tightest Irish accent in the show. Cochran as Pato’s younger brother Ray ups the show’s anxiety quotient at every appearance, displaying impatient distaste for both women with juvenile disregard. Cochran employs fine comic delivery mixed with relentless annoyance. Set design by Daniel Bierly, lighting by Scott Davis and costumes by Hope Cox add effectively to the gritty authenticity of the performance. In 1998, The Beauty Queen of Leenane won four of its six Tony Award nominations in addition to Best Play at the Drama Desk, Drama League, Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Kenny Green’s production for GCLT lives up to those accolades.
Tickets: 972-221-SHOW www.glct.org
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre thrives in revitalized downtown Lewisville at 160 W. Main St. Get to the venue entrance by driving around behind its storefront, feels almost like a secret entrance. Ample parking adjacent.