'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' Is Grim and Compelling at None Too Fragile Theater

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When it comes to black comedies, this piece by Martin McDonagh may not appear to be the blackest of them all. But it possesses that dark Irish sensibility that can cast a pall even as you chuckle at characters thrashing about in their quietly untenable lives.

Mag Folan is the elderly woman who sits and rocks in her small cottage, attended to grudgingly by her daughter Maureen. Yes, the have some serious mother-daughter issues, and the sparks are flying from the outset in this supremely well-acted production directed by Sean Derry.

In this version, instead of Maureen starting out trying to put a happy face on her situation, Derdriu Ring as Maureen comes out of the gate in full-on bitch mode, clearly pissed off at having to cook up mom’s porridge or tea or whatever. And Anne McEvoy also plays against expectations by not being a harridan but almost bashfully asking for her food and drink. This is a nice touch, since the actions that Mag then engages in to sabotage Marueen’s life become even more startling and hostile.

Ring and McEvoy execute a lovely, vicious pas de deux as they dance around each other like scorpions, stingers armed and ready. Equally adept is Tom Woodward as Pato, a man from Maureen’s past with big dreams, whom Maureen locks onto in hopes of dragging herself out of the house that has become a prison. And as Pato’s dim-witted brother Ray, Nate Miller injects just the right amount of outsider perspective and some much needed humor.

It’s a nearly perfect little, bruised world these four talented actors create, brimming with disappointment, small-minded carping, startling cruelty and shattered dreams. And it’s staged in None Too Fragile’s intimate space, where you can feel every jab and jolt. What else could you ask for in a grim, amusing and compelling piece such as this?

The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Through May 7 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron (enter through Pub Bricco), nonetoofragile.com.


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