The Beauty Queen of Leenane | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane


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Martin McDonogh, the prolific young Anglo-Irish writer responsible for such international hits as A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West, has two great strengths as a playwright: a fine sense for how the Irish talk and behave and a knack for telling dark comic stories. In fact the two gifts reinforce each other. Capture the contradictions of the Irish soul, and you can't help but be hilarious and heartbreaking. Entwine tragedy and comedy, and you're well on your way to re-creating the Irish spirit. The Ennis Players, from the west coast of Ireland, prove another point: if you want to mine all the gold in McDonogh's words, it helps to be Irish. In their staging of his 1996 The Beauty Queen of Leenane--about two difficult, manipulative, but essentially likable women, a spinster daughter and her aging mother--the laughter and sorrow are tightly wound together. Each of the four performers in this production is marvelously versatile, delivering some lines with the punch of a seasoned comic actor and revealing in others the horror, cruelty, and violence lurking just beneath the surface. When Steppenwolf produced The Beauty Queen of Leenane three years ago, you could tell it was a dark, gorgeously written play. But hearing authentic Irish voices speak its sound and fury sent shivers down my spine. Bailiwick Repertory, Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 312-458-0722. Opens Thursday, October 31, 7:30 PM. Through November 2: Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 2:30 and 7:30 PM. $25-$30.

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