This Tony Award-winning dark comedy is set in the provincial Irish town of Leenane. Forty-year-old spinster Maureen Folan lives with her manipulative aging mother Mag, stuck in a caretaking relationship that has them both seething with resentment. When a romantic encounter finally sparks Maureen’s hopes for an escape from her dreary existence, Mag’s interference sets in motion a chain of events that is as tragically funny as it is terrifying.
Photos by Michael Brosilow
by Chris Jones
March 23, 2018
An intense mother-daughter dynamic drives ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’
“I’d die before you’d put me in a home,” says the old Irish lady. “Aye,” says her daughter, “hopefully.”
That’s not a slogan you generally read in the mailers for The Mather, The Claire, The Admiral and certainly not for the Presbyterian Homes of Evanston, located just a couple of miles from Skokie, where Martin McDonagh’s famous Irish drama “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” has made a superbly cast reappearance with the indomitable Wendy Robie as Mag Folan and Kate Fry as her dutiful daughter, Maureen.
Jones’ new production is in distinguished company then, but it has the bonus of the aptly named Fry, an actress who never plays the end of a show before she arrives. She’s a gentler, kinder Maureen, which makes Mag’s tyranny all the more powerful, since you see clearly the life this woman might have had, with a different mother. That said, Fry leaves this epic trail of clues as to her own mental instability: they are little ticks, really, but they culminate in a rightly mighty tock.
by Barbara Vitello
March 29, 2018
Harsh humor, toxic relationships propel Northlight’s excellent ‘Beauty Queen of Leenane’
Two women locked in a toxic relationship battle each other in not so subtle ways in Northlight Theatre’s exquisitely honed revival of Martin McDonagh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.”
An early work by the writer/director of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “In Bruges” and the first in his Leenane trilogy, it illustrates in grim detail the damage family members can inflict on each other.
Dread and desperation underscore this blackly comic kitchen sink drama, which unfolds as a battle of wills between beleaguered 40-year-old Maureen Folan (a magnificent Kate Fry) and her septuagenarian mother Mag (shrewd, complex work by Wendy Robie) who share a cottage in a backwater burg in County Galway, Ireland.
While Morris supplies the comic relief, Hosner supplies the heart. But in director BJ Jones’ swift, unflinching production, Fry and Robie provide the fireworks.
by Steven Oxman
March 26, 2018
‘Beauty Queen of Leenane’: Northlight revives McDonagh play with a light touch
The dark and darkly funny mother-daughter drama “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” premiered in 1996 and quickly put playwright Martin McDonagh on the worldwide map, as it were. McDonagh followed with a steady flow of entertaining plays, mostly set in Ireland where his parents were born and which he visited regularly from England, where he grew up. He also has written and directed a couple of films, most recently Oscar winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
The compelling story comes across, and performances can be subtle and beautiful, such as Fry’s multi-leveled aggressiveness and insecurity when Maureen brings home Pato Dooley (Nathan Hosner, with a properly keyed semi-worldly innocence) for a night of passion. And when Robie toys with Pato’s younger brother Ray (Casey Morris), a usually thankless role of a dutiful messenger that here comes off as the best expression of Leenane’s power over a person.
by Jeff Nelson
March 28, 2018
Theatre Review: ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’
In “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” there is a simple plot with complex characters. A dysfunctional relationship between a mother and daughter in an elder care situation leads to resentment on the spinster daughter’s part. When the daughter, played superbly by Kate Fry, sees a chance at love, her resentment boils over with tragic consequences.
“Beauty Queen” is a complex mixture of love, hate and even humor. The characters, even the domineering mother -played wonderfully by Wendy Robie, are combinations of likable and maddeningly imperfect personalities. This leaves a great deal of work to the director, and few flaws exist in B. J. Jones’ direction.
Jones’ technical crew is exceptional and Todd Rosenthal’s always superb stage design work is in top form. Rosenthal recreates the rural Irish house where the events unfold with an appropriately atmospheric touch. Jones’ direction of his four-member ensemble is flawless. He preserves the strange combinations of good and bad in McDonagh’s complex characters as he makes them interesting. Also worth noting is the convincing Irish accents Jones’ actors appropriate without missing a beat.
Kate Fry returns to Northlight, where she performed in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Outside Mullingar, and The Miser. Other Chicago credits include The Winter’s Tale, Ah, Wilderness! (Goodman); The Belle of Amherst, Electra, The Hard Problem and others (Court); Marjorie Prime, Hedda Gabler, The Letters, A Minister’s Wife, Oh Coward! (Writers) as well as productions with Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare, Apple Tree Theatre, and Marriott Theatre. She has also worked with Center Theatre Group in LA, McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Lincoln Center. TV credits include episodes on Empire (Fox), Boss (Starz), Chicago PD (NBC), and Proven Innocent (Fox). She is the recipient of four Joseph Jefferson awards, the local Sarah Siddons award, the After Dark award, and Chicago Magazine’s actress of the year. Kate is married to actor/teacher Timothy Edward Kane; they have two sons.
Nathan returns to Northlight after appearing in Discord. Chicago credits include productions with Lookingglass, Court, Writers, Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman, Paramount, About Face, First Folio, Shaw Chicago and Shakespeare Project of Chicago. Other credits include: Peter and the Starcatcher (first national tour) and productions with American Players Theatre, New Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, BoarsHead Theater, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and Door Shakespeare. Nathan is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London
Casey returns to Northlight after appearing in The Beauty Queen of Leenane. You may have seen Casey in the role of Joey in Laura Eason’s The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, at Raven Theatre, directed by BJ Jones. Other Chicago theatre credits include: Hooded or Being Black for Dummies (First Floor Theater); Ah, Wilderness! (Goodman Theatre); What of the Night? (Stage Left & Cor Theatre); Hand to God (Victory Gardens); Hamlet, The Grapes of Wrath (The Gift Theatre); #Newslaves, EOM (Ignition Festival Victory Gardens); Voyage (Cock and Bull); The Revel (The House Theatre of Chicago); Post Apocalypto (Sketchbook ’15, Collaboraction); In a Little World of Our Own (Irish Theatre of Chicago); and Charlotte’s Web (Emerald City Theatre). Casey received his MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is represented by Gray Talent Group. Visit him at www.caseymorris.info
Wendy is delighted to be back in Chicago after an extended visit to the West Coast to appear in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime) reprising her role as “Nadine Hurley.” In Chicago, Robie has appeared at Drury Lane, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Remy Bumppo, The Next Theatre. As a Company Member for Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Ontario, Robie played “Regan” in Brian Bedford’s King Lear in 2007. Most recently in Seattle, Robie played “Volumnia” in the critically acclaimed all-female production of Coriolanus: Fight Like A Bitch. Film: Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs, Vampire In Brooklyn, The Attic Expeditions, Lost Voyage, Devil In The Flesh, The Dentist II, Were The World Mine. T.V.: Star Trek DS9, Any Day Now, Party Of Five, Quantum Leap, Dark Skies, C-16, Baywatch, Prophet Of Evil, A Place For Annie, and two seasons as “Nadine” in the original Twin Peaks. Proud member of Actors’ Equity (AEA) since 1985.
Martin is a London-born Irish playwright whose first play The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the 1996 winner of the George Devine Award. It also won the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Fringe Play and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Newcomer. The play was nominated for six Tony awards, of which it won four, and the Laurence Olivier Award. Since then McDonagh has gone on to write multiple smash-hit shows and films and win multiple awards including an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film for Six Shooter (2005), an Oscar nomination, a British Independent Film Award for best screenplay, an Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild Award for Best Film Script and a BAFTA for best original screenplay, all for In Bruges (starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, 2008), and a Laurence Olivier award for Best New Play for The Pillowman (won 2004).
BJ Jones is in his 22nd season as Artistic Director of Northlight. Mr Jones is a two-time Joseph Jefferson Award Winning actor and a three-time nominated director. He has directed the world premieres of Relativity, Curve of Departure, Charm, Faceless, White Guy on the Bus, Chapatti, The Outgoing Tide (Jeff Nomination,) Better Late, and Rounding Third. Notably he has directed productions of Outside Mullingar, Grey Gardens, The Price, The Lieutenant of Innishmore, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. As a producer he has guided the world premieres of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Shining Lives, The Last Five Years, and Studs Terkel’s ‘The Good War.’ Additional directorial credits include Pitmen Painters (Jeff Nomination, Timeline); 100 Saints You Should Know (Steppenwolf); Glengarry Glen Ross (Susie Bass Nomination, Alliance Theatre, Atlanta); The Lady with All the Answers (Cherry Lane, New York); Animal Crackers (Baltimore Center Stage); Three Musketeers, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing (Utah Shakespeare Festival), and four productions at the Galway International Arts Festival. As a performer, he has appeared at Northlight, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court and other theatres throughout Chicago. Film/TV credits include The Fugitive, Body Double, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Early Edition, Cupid, and Turks, among others.
Todd has designed 28 productions for Steppenwolf. Broadway credits include August Osage County (Tony Award), The Motherfucker with the Hat (Tony nomination), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Of Mice and Men (Filmed by National Theatre Live), This is Our Youth and Fish in the Dark. Upcoming Broadway: Straight White Men. Off-Broadway credits include Red Light Winter (Barrow Street), Domesticated (Lincoln Center) and Qualms (Playwrights Horizons). Designer for six years for Big Apple Circus. International credits: August Osage County (London & Australia), The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Ireland), Nice Fish, (London). Regional includes: Goodman (artistic partner), Guthrie, Berkeley Rep and many others. Museum exhibitions include “Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition” and “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes.” Awards include Olivier, Helen Hayes, Ovation, Garland, Jefferson, Bay Area Outer Critics Circle, and Michael Merritt. He is a professor at Northwestern University and a graduate of Yale Drama.
Theresa is a Chicago-based Costume Designer. Previously at Northlight: A Civil War Christmas. Off Broadway: Ride the Cyclone (MCC Theatre). Recent Chicago credits: Ragtime (Marriott) The Little Mermaid, Sweeney Todd, and Jesus Christ Super Star (Paramount), Rock of Ages (Drury Lane), The Audience (Timeline), Ride the Cyclone (Chicago Shakespeare), Assembled Parties (Raven). Regionally: Something Wicked This Way Comes (DTC) and Carmen (Finger Lakes Opera). Her work has been seen at DePaul Opera Theatre, Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Opera Chicago, She is also an Artistic Associate with Bohemian Theatre Ensemble and Stage Left Theatre. Upcoming: Once (Paramount). Ms. Ham is an adjunct faculty member at Wilbur Wright College. She has received two Joseph Jefferson Awards for Outstanding Costume Design. Ms. Ham holds an MFA in Costume Design from Illinois State University. She lives in Beverly with her husband, Patrick and their son, Cole.
Northlight credits include The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Relativity, By the Water, Charm, Shining Lives, Outside Mullingar, White Guy on the Bus, Detroit ’67, The Odd Couple, Ten Chimneys, Season’s Greetings, A Life, Grey Gardens, The Retreat From Moscow, Lady, Stella & Lou, The Outgoing Tide, Better Late and Chapatti (the last four also at the Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland). Other work has been seen at Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face, Remy Bumppo, Writers, Steppenwolf and Walkabout. JR designed lighting for seven years of the Steppenwolf TRAFFIC Series, and five Steppenwolf performances in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He has served as head of the Lighting Department at Steppenwolf since 1995.
Andre has designed the Broadway productions of Metamorphoses, I Am My Own Wife and 33 Variations (Drama Desk Award nomination) as well as the world premiere of The Clean House at Yale Repertory and Lincoln Center. Based in Chicago, his work has appeared on most of the city’s stages including Northlight (Shining Lives with Amanda Dehnert), Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court and Lookingglass, where he is an associate artist. He has composed music and designed sound for theaters around the U.S., most frequently at the Oregon and California Shakespeare Festivals, Berkeley Repertory, Arena Stage, American Conservatory Theater, Seattle Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse and Center Theater Group. Choral works include: Winesburg, Ohio,Eastland, Whitman and Undone (with Ben Sussman) and Paris By Night (with Amy Warren).
David returns to Northlight where his last show was City on the Make (1985!) Upcoming shows include: The Gentleman Caller (Raven Theater) and The Adventure of the Elusive Ear (Purple Rose Theatre). Off Broadway: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Second Stage Theater), Edmond (Provincetown Playhouse). Regional: Three Musketeers and Henry V (Utah Shakespeare Festival); God of Carnage, Norma and Wanda (Oakland Press Award) and Escanaba in da Moonlight (Purple Rose Theatre). Mr Woolley is co-creator and performs as Guido in Dirk & Guido: The Swordsmen!. He is the recipient of two Joseph Jefferson Awards for fight direction, a professor at Columbia College Chicago and a member of the College of Fight Masters with the Society of American Fight Directors.
Michelle is excited to return to Northlight after subbing on last season’s Miss Bennet. Michelle has stage managed with Steppenwolf Theatre for many years, and favorite credits there include two versions of The Crucible, Tribes, Clybourne Park, August: Osage County, The Pillowman, Purple Heart (also at Ireland’s Galway Arts Festival), Art and many others. She has also worked with Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Hartford Stage, Dallas Theater Center and Portland Center Stage. Michelle currently serves as Production Manager and Adjunct Faculty for the Theatre and Performance Studies program at Governors Stage University. She is proud to be a member of Actors’ Equity, a graduate of Smith College, Mary’s wife, and Elliott & Lena’s mama.
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