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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Beauty Queen of Leenane


Sarah Marshall and Kimberly Gilbert
The U.S. premiere of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 1998 introduced audiences to the startling world of playwright Martin McDonagh, who uses richly textured language and occasionally violent action to convey both humor and malice—sometimes simultaneously. Director Jeremy Skidmore has brought together four top actors at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, for a pitch-perfect version of this potentially difficult play.

On the outskirts of Leenane, an isolated village in the west of Ireland, 70-year-old Mag Folan (Sarah Marshall) lives with her 40-year-old daughter Maureen (Kimberly Gilbert). McDonagh's script delineates the tiny moments that bind the two women together; the overriding emotions are resentment for Maureen and manipulation for Mag. When Maureen sees the possibility of love—and a future that does not include her mother—the situation heats up from its steady simmer.

Skidmore demonstrated his affinity for this playwright some seasons ago, when he directed a memorable version of The Lieutenant of Inishmore for Signature Theatre. He understands the importance of apparent sincerity and straightforwardness, allowing the audience to seem to get a handle on the situation before watching everything collapse. His cast is there with him for every step.

Marshall, a longtime staple of Washington theater, allows the force of Mag's will to assert itself quietly. She's a somewhat fragile woman who walks unsteadily, but everything she's thinking or plotting comes through in her facial expressions, the squint in her eyes, the twist of her lips. Gilbert is more forthright and physical as Maureen browbeats her mother and yearns for a wider life than she can find in her beautiful but impoverished town. Todd Scofield is affecting as Pato Dooley, Maureen's possible romantic interest, especially in his long monologue, and Joe Mallon is just plain funny as Pato's younger brother Ray.

Tony Cisek's scenic design brings the viewer into the Folans' ancient, moldy cottage with its crumbling fieldstone walls. Dan Covey's lighting design, with its pinpoints of light and exaggerated shadows, and Eric Shimelonis' sound design and original music help bring this remote world to life.

Round House Theatre
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
August 21st - September 15th
By Martin McDonagh
Maureen Folan: Kimberly Gilbert
Mag Folan: Sarah Marshall
Ray Dooley: Joe Mallon
Pato Dooley: Todd Scofield
Directed by Jeremy Skidmore
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-5644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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