A taste of Ireland is being served straight up at the Mark Taper these days, with a kick of a raw Irish whiskey, compliments of the playwright Martin McDonagh, and so I comment in a review for public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere.
You’ll smile, and shudder, whatever, for if you love the power of theatre, the language and the immediacy, of life being unveiled before your very eyes, the brilliant revival of McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane is not to be missed.
But be forewarned, it’s very Irish, not the “top of the morning to ya”, Irish, but “may the devil swallow you sideways” Irish, full of insight and scorn, the constant conflict of love, hate and freedom and family.
The set, the actors and actresses, the witty and wicked dialogue, you feel transported from the Taper in a familiar downtown L.A to the Abbey Theatre in dour Dublin.
And then on stage it is a cave of a cottage in the dank town of Leenane, in the hill country of Connemara, in far western Ireland. The lighting is dim, the details bare and depressing, right down to a dirty sink filled with dirty dishes.
A hard rain is falling outside, its drumbeat at times drowning out the dialogue, spoken with appropriate bile, in front of an old television set that drones on and on. Here feeble and frail in a rocking chair we meet Mag, the mother from the hell, spewing commands her to seemingly dutiful daughter, Maureen, scampering here and there, simmering.
Of note, Marie Mullen, who nearly twenty years ago, in the original production on Broadway, won a best actress Tony for her portrait of the daughter, here plays a scowling Mag. Talk about a tour de force.
As the mother, she is a lethal mix of the maternal and malicious, lonely, leering, domineering; yet you somehow you feel sorry for her, trapped as she is in a rocking chair.
The daughter is played by Aisling O’Sullivan, with veiled ferociousness of a conflicted trapped animal. As for a plot, Maureen, unmarried, fortyish, living at home chained to her mother, has a chance to break free, and into the welcoming arms of suitor, to be whisked off to beckoning America.
I wont tell you more, but be prepared to be shaken, as I was.
The Queen at the Taper reigns at the Taper through December 18th. And if you go, have a tea before you go to calm the nerves, and after the bows are taken, perhaps go for a shot of whiskey.