note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey
The Hovey Players again prove they can handle cutting edge scripts and compete with the “Off-Broadway” theaters downtown. If you haven’t experienced a Hovey show, now is the time---and you don’t have a lot of that. The Beauty Queen of Leenane only runs through next weekend.
Martin McDonagh’s gritty little Irish play, about the cruelest of family ties is getting a powerful production this month in Waltham. McDonagh is one of Ireland’s most celebrated contemporary playwrights. His plays portray the “other” Ireland, the one not featured in travel brochures, the Ireland where life is hard and deprivation can drive people to commit desperate acts.
The so called “Beauty Queen” is the sister who stayed home to care for her ailing mother and was denied the chance to escape their hardscrabble life. Neither mother nor daughter would win any prizes, especially in the congeniality department. What seems like nasty banter—and the play is quite amusing until you realize they’re not kidding---is revealed to be far more sinister than the sass would indicate.
You’d swear the Hovey cast came from the old sod. Director Michael Tonner gets astonishing ensemble work from his actors. Ted Batch is hilarious as the fresh-mouthed neighbor who acts as go-between for his brother and the unmarried daughter, with David Wood giving a touching performance as the reticent suitor.
Mikki Lipsey’s performance as the sly-like-a-fox septuagenarian will stay with you for a long time. She manages to elicit sympathy, even as she ruins her daughter’s hopes and dreams. Mary O’Donnell, too, delivers a tour de force performance as the daughter who is trapped in this desolate human landscape. Their situation may be bleak, but McDonagh’s play is well worth the visit.