Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey

Scary Tale
at Sugan

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Martin McDonagh's grisly tale of perverted mother love comes to the Sugan Theatre Company with a slew of Tony Awards from its New York incarnation.

The crux, as mother and daughter are fond of saying, of the play is the heated, hated relationship between the 40 year old daughter and her invalid 70 year old mom. The mother is so desperate to have someone take care of her that she will do anything to keep her daughter at her side --- or so it appears when this "Twilight Zone" of a play gets started.

The daughter dreams about her mother's funeral and relishes telling her mother about the dream. McDonagh crafts "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" so that we can see it's no picnic living with either of these women.....but he doesn't take sides until the play's horrifying end.

Director Eric Engel keeps the audience guessing and tension rising, but Susanne Nitter gives such a hard-edged performance as the angry daughter that my allegiances went early-on to the mother, destructive behavior and all. I don't want to reveal the creepy ending......suffice it to say it's very Rod Serlingesque.....which may be its appeal.

Mary Klug gives a chilling portrayal of the mother and Nitter seethes with resentment as the daughter. Had her character delivered some of the insults in the beginning with a wink, we might have had more sympathy for her. Matthew Ellis is all tics and twitches as the unwitting messenger of doom and Derry Woodhouse gives a delicious performance as the sweet, naive fella who may be the daughter's way out.

Susan Zeeman Rogers' sod house kitchen set with its ominous big black stove dominated the play. I kept thinking of Hansel and Gretel. When it glows a hellish red and lit Klug as she burns an all important letter, chills go up and down your spine --- thanks to Eric Levenson's fire-light. Krisitn Loeffler's costumes spell tragedy, from Klug's filthy, torn sweater to Nitter's funereal black "beauty queen" dress. It's not a pretty picture of Ireland McDonagh paints, with soaking rain and twenty-year grudges which grow like a mold. Give me Oscar Wilde any day!

"The Beauty Queen of Leenane" (till 18 November)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide