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February 8, 2017 | What Did You Think?,

What did you think of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Thank you joining us for the Druid theatre’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The story of Maureen and her mother brings to light the challenges of isolation, aging, and maintaining family relationships. Though many of us may have different daily lives from Maureen and Mags, their internal struggles are universal.

  • What aspects of the play resonated with you?
  • Did you see our previous presentation of Druid theatre’s Cripple of Inshmaan also directed by Garry Hynes?
  • In the play, characters dream of going traveling to Boston, where is your dream city?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

33 responses to “What did you think of The Beauty Queen of Leenane”

  1. Tara Howard says:

    This play hit too close for me with the mother dashing her daughter’s dreams and the daughter’s powerlessness to rescue herself. The production could be tightened up a bit with fewer long pauses, long lights-out scene changes after which there were no discernible changes on stage, and an interminably long intermission. The acting was superb and the bleak stage set set the brittle mood of the story. Well done.

    • David Dower says:


      Thanks for getting into the conversation. I wanted to pick up one note in your comment and expand a bit on it.

      You write that the blackouts cover “no discernible changes on stage.” The key word there is ‘discernible’ and the fact that there are none is actually a mark of success in this case. There are, in fact, small but crucial changes accomplished onstage in those blackouts and larger ones off stage. Like how a character is wet from the rain at the end of one scene and dry when the lights come up on another day. Or wearing a bathrobe when one ends and a dress when the next begins. Or wearing a dress at the end of one scene that is discovered thrown over a chair when the lights come up again. These are also moments where time passes, so some experience of time passing is part of the strategy. It is interesting how these techniques are less prevalent in contemporary playwriting, though they are common in the plays of the 80’s and 90’s when McDonagh was coming to his craft. Today it is far more common to have no blackouts and no intermissions- stories are 75-90 minute journeys routinely now. Your question about the duration of the pauses is something I have no direct insight on- I am not back stage to see what’s being pulled off during them- but their function is something else.

      So glad you joined us and I hope you will be back again soon. And that you keep sharing your own experience with everyone when you do!

  2. Janine Wanee says:

    Well THAT was a cheery play. 😉 Grateful, DEEPLY grateful, that although I lost my mother to cancer at 23, she supported my dreams like no one else. So I could watch this horror show from a safe emotional distance. There is nothing quite like seeing an actress like Marie Mullen from the second row. ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! It was a beautiful production with heart-stabbing intensity (thanks to Aisling O’Sullivan’s portrayal of Maureen). And yet, from my safe, detached, ‘happy-place’, it was darkly laughable. The trouble is, too many audience members came up to playwright Martin McDonagh in its premiere days and informed him that his characters are not fictitious. That is what makes this play truly great, and truly frightening… and ultimately beyond depressing.

  3. Paul MacInnis says:

    I was at the Saturday February 11th. matinee,sat in the balcony and had trouble hearing and/or understanding the dialogues. I don’t think I was alone either as I noticed no one around me seemed to laugh when the people down below clearly were enjoying themselves. It did get better, perhaps a combination of me picking up more of the accents and/or sound engineers tweaking things. (?)

    • Sara says:

      I second this. I thought I was the only one until intermission when everyone in my party of 5 agreed.
      When I mentioned it to the usher she directed me to the lobby to get a listening device. I was one of many picking one up – more evidence it was a significant problem. The device, plys moving our seats, made things better but doesnt make up missing the dialogue in the first half of the play.

  4. Corinne says:

    Chilling psychological drama with a ghastly epiphany at the end. The acting was fantastic. In every great play I’ve ever seen, you can feel the actors are masquerading for an audience, but this was something else. I felt it was truly happening in front of me for the first time. Very glad to have had this experience.

  5. julia Carlson says:

    This play was great! Powerful stuff, with enough comic moments to render the frightful aspects of the characters bearable. McDonagh captures the Irish in his characters so well … parlance, what they eat (all those biscuits!), the social events he evokes – but in this play, events transcend Irishness – they could be found in any screwed up relationship – where the power is off-balance. The dark, quiet pauses between allowed events me to processed… The only way to improve the intermission is to sell ice-cream, or cocktails, during …

  6. Maureen McDonough Burke says:

    I loved everything about this play. Everything. It was simply brilliant. And the Paramount Theatre is gorgeous. Thank you so, so much.

  7. Robin Chaykin says:

    So grateful that ArtsEmerson brought this 20th Anniversary production to Boston. What a jewel. People must go see this–it will be a long time before they will see acting of this caliber at such close range. An incredible ensemble. McDonagh artfully and shockingly dramatizes the slow and often mundane drip drip drip of psychological torture inherent in certain family relationships and the terrifying dance that results. Mesmerizing. A complete theater experience. If you love theater, this is a must. If you don’t go or rarely go, see this it will show you what theater can be.

    • Angeline Kealy Reals says:

      I really enjoyed the show the relationship between mother and daughter really resignated with me coming from an irish family. I think we all have some one like the mother in the family actors were amazing

  8. Donald Farwell says:

    By far, one of the most outstanding productions I’ve seen at Emerson in some time. The set was extraordinary in detail. A fine ensemble of actors. Having seen the original production 20 years ago, it was a treat to see Ms. Mullen again. Glad I caught the run early on as I hope to return again.

  9. nora hussey says:

    This was a powerful and memorable evening in the theatre. I came with students and colleagues from Wellesley College. The ride back was marked by quiet conversation but mostly a stunned silence. I saw the original in Ireland 20 years ago. the work has only deepened and grown in scope. Thank you to the Druid company and Garry Hynes for an experience we will not soon forget…nor want to do so. Bravo!

  10. Bob Commins says:

    Last night was a gut wrenching evening in the theatre. I did not expect the extreme elder abuse. The acting was superb and memorable. Too bad that I had so much difficulty hearing the dialogue even though I was seated in the third row. Why were the actors not wearing microphones?

  11. Richard Parker says:

    Marvelous play. Felt like I was in Ireland. The theatre is lovely, but I was surprised that there was no refreshment stand. It was very hot in there last night and Emerson could have made some easy revenue selling water. My only other comment was that I thought Aaron was not a strong Ray Dooley. He seemed strained and he did not look like his brother. I thought the others were perfection.

  12. Susan hern says:

    I wish there had been a real program.We could have anticipated whether there was an intermission, or even where there was something to drink. Many around me were drinking wine or beer, but this possibility was not mentioned in the program-just pictures and bios of actors. Why no explanation of region of Ireland where play occurs?I read the play years ago and was one of the older women in an amateur production of Cripple of Inishmaan, and love McDonagh. I understood the men and Mag but had enormous difficulty understanding the Beauty Queen. Is there a way for your company to more subtly suggest an Irish way of speaking when you are not in Ireland? Long repressed, unexpressed anger and frustration are wonderfully portrayed in the piece.

  13. Valerie Grande says:


  14. Amelia LeClair says:

    Excellent, bleak, beautifully acted, shocking and sad. Miserable acoustics – we had to move closer to understand the heavy accents. BUT, amazing acting despite the effort it obviously took to project!

  15. Tom Hanold says:

    I found all four performances last night (2/16) riveting, especially, of course, the two leads. Remembering the difficulty hearing Druid’s dialogue in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” we sat in Row F. Volume wasn’t a problem, but occasionally the brogue/dialect was. I’m grateful you provided in advance the Glossary of Irish terms and cultural references – helped very much to enrich the experience. Finally, for me, the pauses were very effective – both the blackouts to let me absorb the action and sense time passing, but also – even more – some of the long pauses taken by the actors as they absorbed the action themselves and thought through their dilemmas. “Enjoyed” the play as much as such cruelty can be enjoyed.

  16. Sandra Kautz says:

    Fantastic theater experience. McDonagh is a genius observer; wicked humor/ human darkness folded in to make a rich stew out of simple soup- with plenty of twists & surprises! My friend was pointing out some subtle suggestions leading us to guess who really was the nutty one.
    The brogue was a bit hard in the beginning..but we caught on. The theater had the intimate space for this work, and the staging and lighting were spot on.

  17. William Orem says:

    Terrific if not completely successful play by a very young McDonagh. The first act, and the opening monologue of the second, were jewels–precisely written, delivered, and affecting. Maureen Mullen is spot-on, with one or two misses–there is a scene of wincing physical pain that she seems not to be feeling in any particular way, either during or after the event–and Aisling O’Sullivan is quite good, though her acting is burdened by stage affectations: she has trouble delivering more than two or three lines without pulling on her hair. Marty Rea hits his points so cleanly he actually steals the limelight from the principle actors; the night I was there, the audience interrupted his monologue halfway through to applaud (and I among them). His acting is a pleasure to watch, but one odd result is that the principle dynamic onstage then becomes Maureen and Mags’ lover, not Maureen and Mags, which is surely what the playwright intended.

    As regards the whole, mine is clearly a minority opinion, but while I enjoy McDonagh’s work, I am not as impressed as most. “Beauty Queen” is a satisfying exercise in dramatic structure, but as the pieces click together, one does feel it something of an exercise. There’s the Beckett (Irish play opens on old woman in rocking chair), the ironic identification (no big surprise that the young woman who wants nothing more than to escape will, by the end, take her own place in the rocking chair–think Buried Child), the Laura Wingfield (there’s a gentleman caller, but will my hideous mother not leave us alone!), the Blanche DuBois (okay, okay, so I have a secret–but you can still love me, can’t you . . . ?), the Catherine Holly (true, I have been in “nuthouse,” but the scheming old lady put me there), the Ibsen (deliver this letter! And don’t let the wrong person see it!), and so on. That’s fine–audiences love these devices, which is why they exist. But then the second act devolves into actual melodrama–torture, murder, psychosis of the Hollywood type (“Was it all a dream . . . ?”), which, while certainly jaw-dropping as a series of stage moments, creates such a radical tone shift from the first half that it feels like a separate, and less believable, piece.

    Real things happen in act one, in other words, including the things that happen in your heart. Act two undercuts them with a shout.

  18. Michelle says:

    Absolutely BRILLIANT!
    You feel all the feels.

    Marie Mullen was fantastic and so was Aisling O’Sullivan …cannot wait for her to come back in 20 years as the mum. 😉

  19. MARY TODESCO says:

    Superb performances. Could it be that the mother knew all too well of the daughter’s capability? Maybe emphathy?

  20. Ruth Swift says:

    Absolutely brilliant!! The acting was superb, the humor dark, and the storyline mesmerizing. The breaks in the scenes where it went dark and there were only subtle changes enhanced the feeling that nothing in this place where the characters live changes very much. My only complaint is that the sound was terrible, very hard to hear in the balcony, and the accents could have been a little less thick for the American audience.

  21. Bill/Carol Kirtz says:

    We could hear about 60% of it – and many other people (Saturday night) had the same problem. Combination of accents and lack of mikes. Sad, folks! We missed a lot of a great play and performances.

  22. Colleen O'Dea Po says:

    I didn’t know much about the actual story but was excited to bring my daughter so we could experience our Irish Hertitage on stage. I must say I was speechless at the end! I laughed and enjoyed the banter between the mother and daughter in scene 1. It was memorable as I had thoughts of my grannie in Galway and how she treated my auntie who was her caregiver. For the show, I was really imagining a relationship which would eventually show the love they had. Silly me! What did ring most true for me was the burning of personal, important things in the stanlely(fire). I have been hurt from these actions as well and it’s a cruel thing to destroy items that are meant someone else. Bravo to the cast. I did like the show and have not stopped thinking about it since.

  23. Eileen Coleman says:

    Absolutely superb performance – the Druid company is amazing. Thought provoking and emotional throughout. Great cast!!!!

  24. Marilyn Mufson says:

    Though I agreed that Maureen Mullen should have shown us the pain and horror her character felt when her hand was pressed down on the stove, I have nothing but praise for the four actors and their director. I was fortunate to see The Cripple of Irishmaan, and will be seeing Waiting for Godot at this year’s Spoleto Festival. I’m fast becoming a Druid groupie! I disagree that any of the actors overshadowed each other! I loved each performance, but was blown away by Aisling. I was an actress in a local company for many years, and I thought her range as Maureen was stunning. I did not find her
    mannered in any way!
    As for McDonagh, he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, not only of plays but of screenplays as well. In Bruges comes to mind.
    I am very impressed with Emerson’s choice of plays. We have never had anything but praise for what we’ve seen at the Paramount!
    Yes, Irish accents are hard to understand, on screen as well as on stage. I wonder if sub-titles would be a solution. That way, we could enjoy the sound of the language, and know what was being said as well! I’ve seen this done in opera to great success. Why not theater?
    Nonetheless, my husband and I loved the production and will be talking about it for years to come! Bravo!

  25. Rhea says:

    I was blown away by this powerful play, beautiful written and presented. I told a lot of people about it!

  26. Judi says:

    I left at the intermission because I could not understand what was going on — the intense Irish accent was not comprehensible coupled with the fact that in the balcony I
    was not able to hear well! I wish that the acoustics in the theatre were better and that the Irish accents were not as intense!

  27. Kathy Scranton says:

    We were in the balcony and could not hear the dialogue. No-one around us was laughing when the main floor was laughing. I asked people around us if they could hear and they said no too. We left at the half. Not going back until acoustics are remedied.

  28. diane says:

    What a privilege to see this play again. The cast was extraordinary, and I was transported to this world where everyone was trapped. The musicality of the language, the wonderfully bleak set, the sure handed direction made this an incredible night of theater. Thank you for this powerful production.

  29. Scott M says:

    I am so thankful that i did NOT miss this play! Thank you, Druid Theatre cast!!!

    • Susanne says:

      I thought this production was flawless! The performances and dramatic turns literally took my breath away. I attended the Feb. 23 show and one week later, am still thinking about The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Thank you, Druid.

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