Directed by Steve Scott
Produced by Shattered Globe 2. 0 Theatre
At the Athenaeum Theatre
Edgy humor and expert acting nail McDonagh’s Irish drama
They’re back, yes, Shattered Globe 2.0 Theatre is back – thank the theatre God! Now in their 19th season and under the leadership of Roger Smart (Artistic Director) and Doug McDade (Interim Managing Director), Shattered Globe 2.0 opens with a strong, bitingly humorous production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Long know for their marvelous acting and intelligent direction, Steve Scott directs a cast expertly selected to portray McDonagh’s unforgettable characters.
The winner of four Tony Awards in 1998, The Beauty Queer of Leenane is part of Martin McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy, which includes A Skull in Connemara and Lonesome West. McDonagh has been described as the most original and serious Irish playwright in years. In McDonagh’s plays everyday banality takes on sinister undertones, coupling this with dark comedy and melodramatic plots makes for interesting theatre.
This play showcases McDonagh’s brash humor, rich rural Irish idioms and inventive storytelling in an emotionally charged production of this dark and bitingly play.
Set in a shabby, isolated cottage in the west of Ireland ( set design by Amy Chisman), the play tells the darkly comic tale of a mother and daughter engaged in an epic battle of survival in ordinary life. The mother, Mag (Linda Reiter) whines and bullies to get her way while the plain, unmarried forty-year-old daughter, Maureen (a powerful turn by Eileen Niccolai), resentfully carries out the mother’s every command.
The women spend their days in endless rounds of petty insults and physical threats as each maneuver for control of their isolated and lonely existence. When Maureen is offered a chance at love and a new life with Pato Dooley (the understated Joseph Wiens), this once-unspoken terrain grows treacherous. The two women, bound by blood but driven by desperation, will do anything to survive. Pato’s brother Ray (Kevin Viol) provides the light relief in this potent family drama. Full of universal themes as it applies to any place where people are trapped by circumstances, whether family or social; this play redefines ‘dysfunctional families.’
Linda Reiter, as Meg, the mother, easily gets us to hate her with her constant nagging and attention-getting demands. You can see the pain in her eyes. Joseph Wiens, as Pato Doolwy was charming and honest while Kevin Viol, as Ray Dooley was hilarious as the slow-witted young neighbor. The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a saga that pits survival, the numbing effect of isolation, and loneliness against the desperation when hope of escape unleashes dark events that disrupts the rural Irish tranquility.
Sporting thick authentic brogues, this four person cast marvelously navigates through all the dark humor and sardonic wit contained. Linda Reiter is the mother from hell and Eileen Niccolai brash antics covers her troubled past. The battle between these two dysfunctional souls will keep you riveted to your seats. This production strikes all the right notes. Welcome back Shattered Globe.
At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, www.shatteredglobe.org, tickets $25 – $27 – $32, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through February 27, 2011