On the outskirts of the tiny town of Leenane, in Galway, Ireland, live two women, Maureen and Mag. Maureen (played by Cindy Pastorius) is a middle-aged woman who’s been caring for her elderly mother, Mag (played by Heather Hausmann) for twenty years. Their tiny house feels like a prison to her, a cage that has kept her from setting off to create a life of her own. Mag, on the other hand, needs Maureen’s help and so doesn’t want her daughter to leave. Ever.
One day, a young neighbour, Ray (played by Colin Zorzit) drops by with an invitation to a party thrown by his uncle. His older brother Pato (played by Joey Ouellette) will be there – a man who might have become Maureen’s beau years ago, before their paths diverged; a man who needs love and a new life just as much as Maureen.
To say any more about the story in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane would spoil this funny, romantic, tragic, and deeply human story.
As with most good stories, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is about relationships and interactions – the particularities of different souls occupying the same time and space, about what we can all recognize in those people in those relationships, about what they can tell us about ourselves.
Although each human relationship is unique, it also contains and points to universal experiences. After all, human beings share the same set of emotions. We all know what it’s like to have dreams and goals. We know what it’s like to feel they’re out of reach. We have all been someone’s child, and many of us know what it’s like to be a parent, too. And surely we’ve all felt that yearning for a deep connection, for love, for acceptance. We all want to be valued.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane invites us to imagine ourselves in both Maureen’s and Mag’s shoes. And once we do, we face difficult, troubling questions. How much do we expect of others, and what do we give in return? How honest are we – to ourselves and others—about what motivates our choices? How often, for instance, do we claim to act out of love when we’re really acting out of fear? Can we really disentangle those emotions anyway? And what are our breaking points – what would cause us to snap, to jump out of the ruts we’ve dug for ourselves?
There are no easy answers in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, just as there aren’t in any of McDonagh’s other plays (The Pillowman) and movies (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri). Yet, as in those other stories, McDonagh here gives us real, complex human beings making choices that seem right at the time – and making mistakes, too. And as in all of his work, the action is underpinned by dark comedy, the sort of comedy that comes naturally when very different people find themselves stuck together.
The experience of being human is both comic and tragic, after all. To focus on one at the expense of the other would be dishonest.
Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane will be produced by Post Productions at The Shadowbox Theatre on November 27, 28, and December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 & 12. Tickets available online only for $25 at postproductionswindsor.ca (where the venue’s Covid-19 Health and Safety policies can also be found). Seating is limited due to social distancing requirements.