REVIEW (Pulp): Druid’s ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane,’ presented by UMS

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Maureen (Aisling O’Sullivan) lets her manipulative mum Mag (Marie Mullen) have it in Druid Theatre Company’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” presented by UMS. (Photo by Stephen Cumminskey)

When two ordinary, scribbled-on pieces of paper in an envelope magically morph into a miserable woman’s key to happiness — and your heart pounds as you hawkishly, breathlessly watch the precarious letter being set down, picked up, walked around the stage, and handed off — that’s the power of live theater.

But it takes pros to achieve that level of emotionally tense stage magic, and when it comes to interpreting Martin McDonagh’s work, there may be none on Earth that can match Ireland’s renowned Druid Theatre Company, which performed The Beauty Queen of Leenane March 9-11 at the Power Center, courtesy of University Musical Society.

In the play, 40-year-old Maureen (Aisling O’Sullivan) lives alone with her demanding, manipulative 70-year-old mother Mag (Marie Mullen). When handsome former neighbor Pato Dooley (Marty Rea) briefly returns from London, where he works in construction, Maureen gets what seems like her last chance at love and a different life.

McDonagh’s script feels both Shakespearean, with its misunderstandings and intercepted messages, and like Williams’ The Glass Menagerie turned inside out: instead of a mother pushing a reluctant daughter out into the world, a mother repeatedly sabotages a frustrated daughter’s attempts to leave. But one thing is constant between Glass and Beauty Queen: both daughters are pushed to embody their mothers’ self-image. And as we learn more about Maureen’s past struggles, and how she ended up living with Mag, the push-pull bond between them seems all the more toxic but inescapable. READ THE REST HERE

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