REVIEW: The Beauty Queen of Leenane

img_3616-xlSome plays are easy to produce.  You know the ones; they show up every year in community theatres because they are popular or tell a good story.  Producers, directors, and patrons turn out because they know the story or because its palatable to the standard theatre goer.

Then there are some plays that require magic in order to work.  Difficult subject matter, unusual storytelling, or intense drama needs something extra special for it to succeed on stage and at the Box Office.  THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE is one of those kinds of plays.

Luckily, Falcon Theatre knows where to find some solid stage magicians.

Director = Ed Cohen.  Check.  Lead actresses = Tara Williams and Tracy M. Schoster.  Double check.  Impossible chemistry, restraint in story telling, and bold performances = Triple check.

It’s a recipe for success and despite the very heavy, dark material, I left the theater feeling lighter. I was certainly entertained but more than that, I left with a feeling of pride in what some of our smaller, lower profile theatres can do when all the magical elements come together.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of hard work involved.  Ted Weil’s set (painted by Rachel Kuhn) is one of the best I’ve seen in the space.  Ed Cohen’s marvelous sound design supports his actors and the story being told well.  Tara Williams costumes are authentic and professional.  And Kate Glasheen’s dialect coaching made this very Irish dialogue come to life in a more than comprehensible way.

Williams plays Maureen, the daughter to Schoster’s Mag (she wears makeup, but its her physicality that makes this casting work).  Maureen is tired of living in the mountains. She wants adventure but mostly she wants to fall in love.  And she wants away from her mother.

It becomes clear, though, like mother like daughter.  Their tense relationship is mutual.  And when Mag sabotages her daughter’s romantic chances, we almost empathize with Maureen.  Almost.

Craig Branch plays love interest, Pato, and Simon Powell rounds out the cast as Ray, his brother.  They support the two leading ladies well, but make no mistake this is the Williams-Schoster show.  I want more of this dynamic duo in whatever form it takes.

Now, this play won’t be everyone’s taste. It’s dark, full of mature themes, and violent content.  Mental illness is depicted, but more than that dysfunctional relationship is center stage.

But the opening night audience was fixated on the action, audibly responding to what was happening on stage with gasps, laughs, and genuine emotion.

Any play that can do that is magic.

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE plays at Falcon Theatre through March 26th.  Click here for more information.