Maureen (Anne Marie Pennies) and Pato (Patrick Payne)
Maureen (Anne Marie Pennies) and Mag (Susan Smith)
Mag (Susan Smith)
Mag (Susan Smith) and Ray (Shane Bennet)
Nov 02-Oct 11, 2001
'Beauty Queen of Leenane' is a Winner
- By Cheryl Thornburg, Sun News
It has been a little more than a year since No Strings Theatre Company presented its first production, Edward Albee's "Seascape" at the Black Box Theatre. It was a first-rate production with uncanny performances and incredible costumes - a complete package. I wondered at the time if Ceil and Peter Herman could maintain that level of theatre in subsequent productions. And they have. The latest play "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" by playwright Martin McDonagh, is the latest pearl in a string of dynamic theater-going experiences.
The play is part of a trilogy that includes "The Lonesome West," produced earlier this year at the Black Box. Both are set in Ireland, and there are references to characters and situations that the plays have in common.
McDonagh's characters are multi-faceted, sometimes violent in nature, and the relationships are complex and at times disturbing. In the intimate setting of the Black Box, one feels like you're eavesdropping on very private conversations and events.
"The Beauty Queen of Leenane" centers on a volatile mother-daughter relationship. Maureen Folan, the 40-year-old daughter is a spinster who is caring for her aging mother, who is controlling and demanding.
Anne Marie Pennies, a regular performer with the Dona Ana Lyric Opera, plays Maureen. At first, she seems too young to be playing the part, but her acting skill quickly takes over and she is convincing as the bitter and lonely Maureen. She is particularly effective as she spars and sometimes baits her mother, played by Susan Smith, who may be remembered for her performance several years ago in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe" at Las Cruces Community Theatre. Together they are formidible and the tension, frustration and anger they create - palpable.
Smith is a master of body language and finely tuned facial expressions that say far more than words.
Add to the mix a would-be suitor, Pato Dooley, played by veteran actor, Patrick Payne, and the stage is set for high drama as well as comic relief to ease the intensity of the emotional scenes. Payne brings to Pato his leading-man charm with just a touch of Irish blarney, making the character a welcome and soothing element of the play. Payne, who played one of the brothers in "The Lonesome West," is so comfortable with the Irish dialect that he must be calling on some Irish ancestors to guide him.
Shane Bennet plays Pato's younger brother, Ray, whose laziness is integral to the plot. Bennett is a first-rate comedian and he makes the most of the role, providing much-needed laughter to balance the uncomfortable scenes between mother and daughter.
Director Michael Wise has come up with another winner. His local credits include "Twelfth Night" and "Buried Child" for the American Southwest Theatre Company, "Sweeney Todd" and "Don Giovanni" for the Dona Ana Lyric Opera, and No Strings Theatre Company's production of "A Life in the Theatre."
"The Beauty Queen of Leenane" is difficult to categorize. It is compelling theatre with moments of laughter, but primarily unforgettable scenes of human drama that make you feel the pain of the characters. It is not suitable for young children.
"The Beauty Queen of Leenane" continues at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall, Nov. 2-4 and Nov. 8-11. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., Thursdays and Sunday Nov. 4 are at 7 p.m. There will be a final matinee Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $7 regular and $6 students and seniors over 65. All seats on Thursdays are $5.
No seating plan has been posted.
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