Come take the high road, or in this case Martin McDonagh’s dark and twisty low ride to Leenane county, Ireland and see Silver Spring Stage’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Directed by Seth Ghitelman, this darkly comic tale is one of three in McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy, focusing around the story of Maureen, a woman in her forties who is approaching her last shot at real love. If only her manipulative mother, for whom she cares for night and day, would stop interfering. As this play races toward its terrifying conclusion – justice is left swinging in the balance of the audience’s eyes.
Set Designer Bob Thompson has crafted a quaint Irish homestead with a warm and cozy feeling to it. The walls feel warm, there’s an old wood burning stove, wooden rocking chairs; everything has a sense of homeliness to it, as if the set were actually someone’s front room and kitchen and that it is thoroughly well lived in. Sound Designer Jamie Coupar continues this down home Irish feel with several jaunty Irish folk tunes playing before the show starts, during intermission and lightly as background noise throughout the production. Thompson and Coupar work together to really create a fresh sense of Ireland for the audience.
It is a risky decision to take on a play whose entire existence revolves around a thick dialect and set accents. The accents from the four actors at the beginning of the play sound very strong, almost overdone, but fade quickly into a mesh of muddled English and strange American shouts. Maureen (Brenda Ryan) struggles the most with this, her Irish accent only surfacing in moments of extreme vocal loudness and anger. It is distracting and disappointing to hear these muddy indecisive accents for the duration of the show.
Ghitelman lacks uniformity in his pacing of the show and the dialogue that flows between the characters feels unnatural and stifled. The timing is off, be it for comic delivery or dramatic instance. There are often long pauses, particularly between Mag and Maureen, where a comic line for a darkly humorous reaction has been written into the script -but the actors’ deliveries cause it to fall short. There are other moments (especially with Rat Dooley (Dylan Knewstub) where comic lines or revealing dramatic lines are rushed right over.
There are, however, some rather unique characters crafted in this show
Jane Squier Bruns gives the most talented performance of the show. Her cantankerous ways of barking orders and sneaking about the house are rather comical in a dark way, and she is the most convincing. Her biting barbs toward Maureen (Brenda Ryan) are drawn with venom and strike like a viper. Bruns manages to achieve a level of depth to her character which surpasses the others, giving her character dimension and growth, allowing the audience to see a transformation, however dark and devious, as she reveals layer after layer of her darker side.
Ryan has some fine moments also. She crafts a breakdown on stage which is truly harrowing as she sobs and shuns the comfort of potential lover Pato Dooley (Ted Schneider). It is a heartfelt scene that sheds light on her character. Ryan also has a horrifying moment late in act two that adds a fiery surprise to her character that is most unexpected, but enjoyable to watch.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays through June 9, 2012 at The Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.