Dramaworks' 'Beauty Queen of Leenane' is 'wince-inducing' funny
The Beauty Queen of Leenane: The verdict: (A) A darkly comic, well-acted Irish tale of a mother-daughter emotional tug-of-war, with some grisly surprises. As its name implies, Palm Beach Dramaworks rarely ventures into the realm of comedy, but it has made an exception with Martin McDonagh's darkly humorous and rather grisly The Beauty Queen of Leenane... ...McDonagh has provided numerous theatrical tales of the mirthfully macabre, but few as concise yet rich in character as this mother-daughter tug-of-war set in the dreary title coastal village of County Galway. There, 40-ish spinster Maureen Folan is trapped, with no prospects of escape, dutifully taking care of her crabby, demanding, manipulative mother Mag, who barks out orders for her porridge, tea and other meager creature comforts. Unspecified is why she gains such pleasure at her daughter's misery, but she certainly knows how to push Maureen's buttons and Maureen has no qualms about pushing right back. The interplay between them, particularly as performed to the hilt by fleshy, heart-on-her-sleeve Kati Brazda (Maureen) and stolid, rocking chair-bound Barbara Bradshaw (Mag), is wince-inducing yet perversely comic. They goad each other, picking away at long-festering emotional wounds with such skill that the only appropriate response is an uncomfortable laugh. ...Director William Hayes' great care with the play's comic suspense is never more evident than in the scene between Ray and Mag, where he is impatient to deliver the missive to Maureen while her mother is eager to get her hands on it, to read and destroy it. The sequence is virtually choreographed, as Blake DeLong totes it about Michael Amico's grimy, drab cottage set, inches out of Mag's reach. Although less heady than most of Dramaworks' fare, the more visceral The Beauty Queen of Leenane stands up well to the rest of the company's season — more "theater that packs a wicked stomach punch" than the usual "theater to think about."