Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Superb THE BEAUTY QUEENOF LEENANE at none too fragile

The Irish are a unique brand of people.  Living in a land of rocks, hills, harsh weather, poverty and isolation, they have developed attitudes toward life that lend themselves to dark thoughts and bleak tales. 

Modern and contemporary Irish playwrights like Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, Marina Carr and Martin McDonagh, write of the people’s passion for land, fixation on weather, drinking, morbidity, family ties, mythmaking, tangled relationships, dreamers, misanthropes and lonely souls.

McDonagh’s THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE, which is now on stage at none too fragile theater, could serve as a master plate for well-written modern Irish plays.  The black comedy, with tragic undertones, contains almost all of the traditional things-Irish.

The story centers on Maureen, a 40-year old spinster who lives in the Irish village of Leenane, where she acts as a caretaker for her hypochondriac mother.  Maureen wants to get married, get out of Leenane, and especially away from her bitter mother.

The chance comes for Maureen to seemingly get her wishes when she becomes reacquainted with Parto, a construction worker, who thinks of her as “the beauty queen of Leenane.” But, in true Irish spirit, the tangled relationship with her mother gets in the way as the old lady hides important information. 

McDonagh’s play reminds us that Ireland is a place with few options, with little hope of happiness or escape.  Compassion, true love, human warmth and self respect, are not part of the formula practiced by the people of “the wearing of the green.” 

The Irish don’t suffer because they are bad people, they just inhabit a corner of the world in which their universe is limited.  Some escape, but many either go mad, become alcoholics, or learn to live with monotonous cycle of life repeating and then repeating itself.  This is the stuff that soap operas and black comedies, are made of.

The multi-award winning THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE gets a superb production at none too fragile.  Sean Derry shows a keen understanding of the script and its production requirements.  Though the material is talky and lacks physical action, the staging keeps the audience alert.

The cast is flawless.  Derdriu Ring gives an award winning performance as Maureen.   She textures the role with frustration, irritation and even some unbridled happiness when it appears that Maureen may finally get to escape.  She doesn’t portray Maureen, she is Maureen.  Bravo!

Anne McEvoy conveys in her Mag a true bitterness toward a life that has given her no happiness.  She has little control over her personal existence, and exerts what small dignity she might muster by demanding she be taken care of.  McEvoy masterfully portrays the miserable woman.

Tom Woodward effectively creates Pato, the play’s only character who seems to have a way out of the Irish morass.  He nicely develops a man, who within his emotional stiltedness, expresses caring for Maureen and his desire to take her to America for a better life.

Nate Miller as Ray Dooley, Pato’s brother, creates a nicely textured snapshot of the typical Irishman who is willing to settle for what he can get…watching Australian soap operas, accepting that he is, what he is, and asking for little more.    

Capsule judgement:  THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE is a first-class Irish play, by a very talented modern “Mick” writer.  The none too fragile production is finely-directed and performed.  This is one of the top area productions of the season and is a definite must see!

For tickets to THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE which runs through May 7 at none too fragile theater in Akron, call 330-671-4563 or go to nonetoofragile.com

The next none too fragile show is SANS MERCI a powerful piece of theater by Johanna Adams, from April 22-May 7, which centers on Kelly, a survivor of rape and attempted murder by South American Revolutionaries, who, three years after the incident, is confronted by the mother of a woman who was killed during the incident.