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Henley Street Theatre The Beauty of Queen Leenane

By • May 28th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Beauty of Queen Leenane
Henley Street Theatre: (Info) (Web)
SPARC Center For The Performing Arts, Richmond, VA
Through June 15th
2:05 with intermission
$30/$25 Seniors/$20 Student/RAPT
Reviewed May 23rd , 2013

Having seen The Pillowman by Cadence Theater Company earlier this year, I figured I knew what to expect in seeing The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Henley Street Theatre, since they are both written by Martin McDonagh. It would be a dark comedy.

The cast has the comedy elements down, but there just wasn’t enough angst and sinister-ness in the performances for me and my guest for the evening Katie, to consistently play out the “dark” part.

The play is set in the west of Ireland. The story revolves around Maureen (Jill Bari Steinberg), a middle-aged spinster, who lives with her elderly and manipulative mother Mag (Mary Best Bova). Maureen lives a lonely, boring life, longing for romance to take her away from her mother and their drab life. When the chance seems to come along to find love with a former school mate, Pato (Tony Foley), Maureen sees an opportunity to escape.

The Irish dialects are consistent, although at times Bova is a bit hard to understand. I also never realized until watching this play, how much like Yoda the Irish talk-how backwards they speak!

Bova’s Mag is clearly old, miserable and annoying, but her Mag needed to be just a bit more evil and dislikeable. There are moments, such as when she tries to embarrass Maureen in front of Pato where this comes forward. Her finest moments come in her final seen where she is finally able to let go and show a great deal of believable emotion and pain. On the plus side, holding back early on in the play did make this perhaps even more horrifying.

Steinberg is too young and attractive to truly play an old maid, however she does pull off Maureen’s unbalanced nature. She truly has you wondering if Mag is senile or she is crazy. She gives a strong performance but could also allow more of the craziness to come out earlier on in the play. She reminded me too much of a teaching assistant I had, who had a dry, biting wit and you could never be quite sure if you should be laughing or offended.

As staged by Director Bo Wilson, the relationship between mother and daughter is almost like The Odd Couple. Can an old mother and daughter share an apartment without driving each other crazy? The dialogue is crisp and conversational and the staging energetic and effective.

The best comedy moments come from Pato (Foley) and his younger brother Ray (Alexander Sapp). They both bring an every man, straight-faced energy to their scenes. Sapp is especially good at helping the audience forget about the tension and pain between the mother and daughter and receives some of the bigger laughs in his frenetic energy.

Tennessee Dixon’s set is appropriately drab and bare, as you would expect their apartment to be. Sarah Jarrell Wade’s costumes also add to the drabness and plain-ness of their lives, as does Michael Jarrett’s light design.

This play is the winner of four Tony Awards, the Drama Desk Award, the Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. With summer re-runs abounding on TV, it would be time much better spent to come out and see the live suspense in The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Photo Gallery

Mary BestBova Tony Foleyas Pato and Jill Bari Steinberg as Maureen
Mary BestBova
Tony Foleyas Pato and Jill Bari Steinberg as Maureen
Mary BestBova as Mag, Tony Foley as Pato and Jill Bari Steinberg as Maureen
Mary BestBova as Mag, Tony Foley as Pato and Jill Bari Steinberg as Maureen

Photos by Vinnie Gonzalez

The Cast

  • Mag: Mary Best Bova
  • Pato: Tony Foley
  • Ray: Alexander Sapp
  • Maureen: Jill Bari Steinberg

The Crew

  • Director: Bo Wilson,
  • Stage Manager: Andrew Resnick
  • Set Designer: Tennessee Dixon
  • Lighting Design: Michael Jarrett
  • Costume Design: Sarah Jarrell Wade
  • Costume Assistant: Kirsten Fox
  • Sound Design: James Ricks
  • Dialect Coach: Amanda Durst
  • Assistant Stage Management Intern: A.R. Cooper
  • Properties Intern: Sam Martin
  • Lighting Intern: Tessa Hoerst
  • General Production Intern: Julia Weinberg
  • Crew: Jenny Carlson
  • Set Construction: Ross Aitken, Ryan Gallagher and James Ricks

Disclaimer: Henley Street Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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