Martin McDonagh

Bedraggled, grubby, and beautiful

Third Rail's 'Beauty Queen of Leenane' revels in McDonagh's great, grim humor

When first we hear the phrase “the beauty queen of Leenane” in Martin McDonagh’s mid-1990s play of that name, the moment is rich with irony and ambiguity. By this point we’ve spent some time with Maureen, seen how trapped she is in a bitterly dysfunctional relationship with her mother, how bedraggled she is by her thankless toil and loveless life, how she yearns for some romantic completion beyond the mere few kisses she’s had in her 40 years.

But then there is Pato Dooley, in her kitchen late one night, joshing and flirting, making his intentions clear.

Trying to explain why he’d never before shown an interest in her, Pato says he’d always thought who was he to approach “the beauty queen of Leenane.”

At this point in the grubby-looking but brilliantly executed Third Rail Rep production that opened last Friday in the Winningstad Theatre, actress Maureen Porter’s face registers a perfect mixture of surprise, pleasure, disbelief, caution and suspicion. Is he being facetious and mean? Or is he the answer to a life of pain and longing?

Kupper and Porter: a surprise romance. Photo: Owen Carey

Kupper and Porter: a surprise romance. Photo: Owen Carey

Neither, as it turns out. Pato is sincere, seeking a salve to his own loneliness. But, unsurprisingly, this fledgling romance faces an impediment.

Continues…