The Banyan Theater Company serves up a dark comedy with The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
By Kay Kipling
McDonagh’s earliest play to receive critical and popular attention, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, is now onstage in a Banyan Theater Company production at the Cook Theatre, and it should send a chill down your backbone to help cool you in these dog days of summer. Set in a small town near Galway in the west of Ireland, in the early 1990s, Beauty Queen revolves around a 40-ish spinster, Maureen (Jessica K. Peterson), and her 70-something mother, Mag (Kim Crow), whose sparring relationship is evident from the first words of the play, which is set in the kitchen of an old rural cottage.
Kim Crow and Jessica K. Peterson in The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
The back and forth of their dialogue is amusing and quick, and at first we may wonder if some affection lies behind it. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this mother-daughter relationship is one for the books. Mag is a selfish, exasperating old hag who has made her unmarried daughter’s life miserable, and Maureen has all but given up hope of getting out from under—until an old neighbor, Pato Dooley (Derry Woodhouse), returns for a brief visit from his exile in England. Is there a chance of these two lonely people kindling a love affair that will last? Or will Mag doom the future to repeat the past?