The Beauty Queen of Leenane

My week began with a sudden and painful dental emergency, but antibiotics worked their magic and I felt back to normal as the lights dimmed at BAM’s Harvey Theater on Thursday evening. The Beauty Queen of Leenane commenced, and it was not long before I felt a new kind of pain — an uncomfortably real and heart-wrenching pain. It was the pain of isolation, lost dreams, mental illness, racial and economic inequality, and the complex and brutal relationship between a mother and her daughter. Playwright Martin McDonagh and a small cast from Ireland’s theater company, Druid, made me laugh and weep as middle-aged Maureen Folan (played brilliantly by Aisling O’Sullivan) finally finds a chance at a new life away from her domineering mother Mag (devastatingly performed by Marie Mullen.) The dull gray combative march of days is interrupted one afternoon when the delightful young neighbor, Ray Dooley (hilariously brought to life by Aaron Monaghan), announces that his brother Pato is in town. Maureen connects with Pato (endearingly performed by Marty Rea) at a party and I barely breathed as the alternately dark and hilarious play come to its inevitable conclusion. The dental emergency I mentioned? Forgotten. The play? I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It was one of the finest evenings of theater I have ever experienced.

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