Bluebird Arts THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE Review – A Hate/Hate Relationship Between Mother and Daughter

A small, cramped house where the sink smells of pee. A never ending supply of Clompan. Two people constantly fighting for control of their living situation. These are the sights and sounds of THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE. This show takes the standard loving family home and turns it on it’s head to pit a mother and daughter against each other when one has the potential to leave and the other doesn’t want to be left behind.

Mag needs each day’s rituals fulfilled with assistance from her daughter - tea or porridge made, the radio turned louder, and daily fights with someone.

Bluebird Arts Brings the Darkness in THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

If you generally like to see happy and uplifting shows that make you feel good when you leave the theater, Martin McDonagh plays are not for you.

This playwright’s works are wrought with black humor, sarcasm, and usually a tragic end. THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE is no exception.The story follows a mother and daughter already at odds with each other after living together for many years until the bitter end when one dares try to leave.

Jaimelyn Gray as Maureen Folan Photo: Dave Markowski

Mag and Maureen Folan live almost in isolation in the small mountainous village of Leenane in Ireland. Maureen is 40 years old, never been married, and lives at home with her mother.

The two are at constant odds and have taken on an abusive relationship - bickering and threatening each other. However, when a neighbor Pato returns for a brief visit to the village, the two women’s way of life could potentially change. Not wanting Maureen to leave, Mag tries to sabotage Pato and Maureen’s getting together. But when Maureen finds out, all their pent up frustration eventually causes a fight to end all fights. But the ending that Maureen envisioned is not the one she gets and falls into the same patterns as her mother.

Believable Relationships

The cast is led by Kate Harris and Jaimelyn Gray as the mother/daughter pair. Gray, though she looks a tad bit under 40, still conveys a convincing life haggard and worn out woman. Harris has the best mannerisms for her character, from the twitchy hands to her repetitive questions and queries.

And when the two of them fight, at the beginning we tentatively laugh at their casual threatening remarks as we understand this is normal for them. But by the end, we feel afraid of what they might actually do to each other.

John Wehrman playing Pato also has memorable moments. He plays Pato with an open heart and as an overall nice guy.

His interaction with Mag in their kitchen during the “morning after” is delightfully awkward as he tries not to be awkward. He also delivers Pato’s letter to Maureen with genuine caring and we believe he wants Maureen to join him in Boston.

Some Minor Hiccups, But Otherwise an Emotionally Charged Show

There were some parts of the show that felt like they lagged and perhaps the dialogue could be picked up a bit. The cast seemed to stumble over their accents a bit as well. Ray, played by Connor Baty, was over animated at times. Even if we’re to believe he’s been around these two women for most of his life and would know their oddities and repetitiveness, he seems rattled a bit too easily without much reason.

Overall, the cast is good at playing up the dry humor of the script and carries the story fairly well. The Bluebird Arts production of THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE will fulfill your Martin McDonagh needs.


Note:  An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.


Now through March 25
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm


The Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657



Available online at or


Dave Markowski

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