Review "The Beauty Queen on Leenane": A Winner!

Shattered Globe presents

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THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport Ave
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Steve Scott
Thru February 27th 2011
Thursdays - Saturdays 8pm
Sundays 3pm
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Two hours with a fifteen minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Mothers and daughters!  Refusing to eat porridge, pouting for better cookies, lying about peeing in the sink, this childish behavior is unacceptable... especially FROM a mother.  Shattered Globe presents THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE.  Maureen is a 40 year old virgin sentenced to caring for her demanding mother, Mag.  Playing the invalid, Mag is a whining, ridiculing, bitch of a matriarch.  To retaliate, her daughter delights in verbalizing vivid daydreams of her mother's murder.  Their dysfunctional shtick is interrupted when a would-be suitor returns to Leenane for a visit.  When Mag's fiefdom is threatened by a male intruder, what wouldn't she do to keep her daughter imprisoned?  THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE is a dark comedy about a complicated mother-daughter bond.  It's "Mommie Dearest" meets "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" with an underlying layer of "Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

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Playwright Martin McDonagh has penned an entertaining Irish tale with well-developed characters.  McDonagh has characters stumble over names... 'Father Welsh, no Walsh, no Father Welsh'... adding to the authentic feel of the conversation happening in real time.  Director Steve Scott stages the emotion and action understated and poignant.  Linda Reiter (Mag) manipulates with marvelous malice.  Reiter embodies the anti- sweet old lady stereotype.  Just when you think she couldn't be any nastier, Reiter kicks it up four notches.  Eileen Niccolai (Maureen) shows a wide-spectrum of heart-breaking emotion.  Niccolai balances being the pathetic victim of her mother's abuse with well-placed insulting zingers.  Later, Niccolai is sweetly vulnerable and eager to Joseph Wiens' (Plato) flirtations.  Weins charms as a big-strapping, tall drink of whiskey.  He endears with a respectful sincerity to daughter and mother.  Kevin Viol (Ray) is hilarious as the grudge-holding, TV-watching, poker-envying messenger.  Viol brings  wacky humor relief to intense moments.  

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Giving it a homey feel, designer Amy Chisman has designed a set revolving around a modest, functioning Irish kitchen. A montage of framed windows separates the inside from the outside pathway.  Without leaving the Leenane house, sound designer Roger Smart transports the audience to London with city noises surrounding a monologue.   Costume designer Joanna Melville dresses the cast in unassuming village ordinariness.  Exchanging boots for slippers and a skirt damp from the coat down are all the extra special touches that welcome you into what appears to be the simple life of Galway County folk.   McDonagh wrote an engaging tale with surprising twists.  Under Scott's direction, this superb ensemble delivers a memorable show.  THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE is a must-see winner on this year's pageant circuit. 

Sharing the cramped quarters, Rick describes it with "malign, twisted, bitter."

SHOW WARNING:  Athenaeum Theatre has little leg room.  Leave your big purse or backpack at home.

Production photography by Kevin Viol.

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  • I saw this back in 1999 at Steppenwolf with Laurie Metcalf in the role of Maureen. Always a crowd pleaser. I wonder if Mag provided any inspiration for Tracy Lett's Violet Weston in "August: Osage County".

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