The Beauty Queen of Leenane – O’My


The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Photo Credit: Spotlighters Theatre/Chris AldridgeCMA Photography


Gotta admit:  I thought The Beauty Queen of Leenane was going to be heinous.  Now, yes, part of that is that I’m a bitch who side-eyes small theater productions where heavy, consistent accents are a must (I’ve seen some “me mither and me fither went down to the staaaaare” shit in my day) and part of it is that this production seemed to have an Irish curse.  The heating units broke at Spotlighters (during the coldest winter on record!) and still haven’t shipped.  One of the lead actresses for Leenane had to be hospitalized and her replacement got three rehearsals.  The entire opening weekend was cancelled.  One goddamned thing after another.  Joke’s on me, though, because the show wasn’t heinous.  It wasn’t even bad.  In fact.  Y’all.  It was good.  Of course, this is a comedy in the Irish style, which means it would be called a “tragedy” anywhere else.  Mother and middle-aged daughter Mag and Maureen Folan (Valerie Lash and Kat McKerrow) live together in a claustrophobic little cottage in County Galway, Ireland.  Maureen is moody and snappish with her elderly, grasping mother, who constantly wheedles her for medicated tea, porridge and demands to basically stay trapped with her until the end of one of their lives.  It would be enough to drive anyone crazy, but Maureen has a little head start on that as evidenced by her alluded-to stay at an English mental health facility.  One day a “gasser” from up the road, Ray Dooley (Mason Catharini) drops by and mentions to Mag that his brother, Pato (Michael Page), is having a going away party.  The old lady tries to keep the shindig secret, fearful that her little girl/servant will somehow find a golden ticket out, but Maureen catches on and the lovebirds end up back at the house exchanging all kinds of fluids.  Mag kicks into high survival gear and tries to gaslight Maureen into thinking that Pato doesn’t care for her by burning his letters.  This turns out to be a bad move on her part as it causes Maureen’s anger and repression to explode, big time.  I will say it straight off:  the breakout here is Kat McKerrow (I mean, with a name like that, tho, right?).  Her turn as the ill-fated Maureen is a dazzling, brilliant, emerald jewel of a performance.  There are some actors who you just know are putting their entire self, their entire gorgeous, vulnerable, trembling selves, into a role and she, here, is one of them.  Maureen is a layered, considered study that in no way feels laborious.  On the contrary, McKerrow is completely and disturbingly natural – sexy and fascinating and dangerous.  A late Act 2 scene finds her monologuing with a power, an internal, disordered sun, that was an exquisite piece of theater.  Lash picks up what McKerrow is laying down and the scenes between the two are the most compelling in the play.  It’s astonishing that Lash was a late addition to the cast as it feels like she comes right home to the part – her Mag is a crone of highest order, a whining old bitch that still doesn’t deserve what her daughter has coming for her.  Lash creates a roundness that I don’t often see, a completeness that makes me effortlessly think of the worst points of my own grandmother, sitting in her damned old chair, bossing me around.   She, too, had hands that kind of curled in like claws.  It felt like Catharini needed some time to settle into Ray, but I eventually found him consistent and he seemed quite the native to me.  Page, though, stuck out.  There’s trouble with the accent made worse by constant rushing.  I was frustrated by the scenes between he and McKerrow, she takes it seriously to high effect and he just isn’t there.   Set was great this time.  Alan Zemla and Fuzz Roark are pros at making the tiny space at Spotlighters cozy, and this time it seemed just a little cold and clammy, too, despite the embroidered dishcloths with their cheery, brainlessly homespun idioms (I believe I spotted a picture of JFK on the wall, nice touch).

BOTTOM LINE:  The Beauty Queen of Leenane really does have a queen and it’s Kat McKerrow.  I don’t often recommend a show because of one performance, but I would for this one, if I had to.  Luckily, I don’t, as the rest of the production has quite a lot to offer.  If you’re in the mood for a pitch-black Irish comedy with a kick like a spooked horse and a killer of a strong lead, I think you’ll find this right up your alley.

Running at Spotlighters until March 15th


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  • Wow… good thing you HAVE a day job! Cause you do really suck at this one.

    • John, this is a wonderfully constructive comment. I can only hope that my critical analysis can, one day, be as trenchant as yours. Thanks for reading!

  • Not sure what play you were watching but there wasn’t a woman on the stage that should be referred to as sexy…obviously you take bias to a whole new level…your lucky freedom of speech exists in this country or your shit would be banned from being posted. Grow some balls and put your name to your bullshit so no one else may be blamed for the wee that should be flushed down the sink!

    • Everyone has different views as to what is sexy. Just like you have different views on correct grammar.

    • Normally, I don’t waste my time on fools of your base quality, Nika, but I find your idiocy particularly offensive.
      Not because you said anything about the play, which I directed, that was particularly useful or interesting, rather, I am just so damned appalled that I have to set the record straight.

      First of all;
      ‘Your’ is possessive. ‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are’. It would behoove you know how to use these words before using them incorrectly and making an ass out if yourself.

      The Bad Oracle is a woman (I think that bias to which you were referring was a sexual one). Even if you were not implying preferential treatment based on attraction, your assertion that she should ‘grow balls’ is patently ridiculous, and more than a little shabby. The reason for anonimity is clearly explained in the disclaimer.

      You are not a credible source to speak on the nature of free speech or a hypothetical world in which reviews are banned.

      Your stupid jab about the ‘sexiness’ of the female member of this cast are disgusting and very revealing.
      My mind is boggled that an adult would waste their time posting such a cruel thing. For what? Nobody agrees with you. What purpose did it serve other than to display your vacuous grossness for all to see?
      What the hell are you doing wasting your time showing the internet how flawed you are?
      They are indeed physically beautiful, but, both of these actresses are fiercely talented women who dedicate great time and energy to making this city, state, country (you should be thankful you live in), and world a better place through art.
      The only thing you seem to bring to the table is a bad attitude, poor understanding of the English language and the first amendment, and a bucket of dumb.
      I wonder if you even realized that the one playing the 70 year old was wearing make-up.
      These ladies would be sexy even if tey were dipped in acid and force to wear garbage bags tied at the waist with extension cords. They are just compelling and marvelous. I doubt that you could even compare…

      Were I to make asinine comments in a public forum, I might realize that in this day and age it is very easy to follow the connections.
      The fact that you are so easy tied to the one person who was given negative feedback in the review above makes you both look like complete jesters.
      You wanna sqweak about BIAS???

      Bravo, Kat and Valerie, you sexy beauty queens of the Baltimore Stage!

  • What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie

    Obviously, Lance, you are unable to fully understand the meaning behind this quote. We all have a right to our opinion; I freely expressed mine taking heed not to attack the author of the above blog personally. Conversely the unimpressive bombastic rant you refer to as, “setting the record straight”, is infused with logical fallacy. While I appreciate your pompous lesson on the appropriate use of the English language, I suppose your spell check (anonimity/tey/sqweak) was unemployed while you were typing your rant. Maybe we should enroll in an English refresher course together. As far as cruelty; I am unsure how stating that a person isn’t sexy is comparable to cruel. Oh and never mind the fact that this person is portraying the role of a disheveled mentally ill psychotic murderer at the time when I referred to her as not sexy. I never said she was ugly or heinous, but crazy isn’t sexy! What is patently ridiculous are your verbose personal attacks and inability to appreciate an opinion other than your own. My bucket of dumb now runneth over after this encounter with you. Let us remember, we criticize in others what we most fear in ourselves.

    • Wow, Nika, I can honestly say I’ve never seen someone get so viciously upset over a positive review before. And comparing yourself to Salman Rushdie? Nice touch.

      Let’s assume that you did, indeed, take heed “not to attack the author of the above blog personally,” despite telling her she “take[s] bias to a new level” and should “grow some balls.” Let’s assume that you did mean to leave a substantive and mature opinion, instead of calling it shit twice and comparing it to urine once. Let’s also assume that you do, truly, care about “appreciat[ing] an opinion other than your own, and would never react in a childish and insulting manner to an opinion different from yours. Let’s finally assume that you are a completely disinterested party in this matter and have NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to the only person to get a bad mention in the review, and are not simply the kind of person who feels the need to tear others down when their own self-worth feels threatened.

      Okay. Let’s assume all of that, even if none of it’s true. Here’s the absolute best-case scenario: you honestly felt that you needed to speak up, in a highly emotionally-charged manner to the point where you essentially state that what you just read is so vile and offensive to you that it would be banned for the general public good if it were not literally illegal to do so… because a critic found a woman’s performance to be sexy and you did not.

      You are truly a brave champion of free speech, Nika. The bravest, even.

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