The Beauty Queen Of Leenane
You'll look in vain for a strong, caring mother-daughter bond in The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, Martin McDonagh's tense script set in a small Irish village.
In fact, the animosity between Mag Folan and her daughter, Maureen, suggests the parent-child savagery in classical Greek drama, where Clytemnestra and her estranged child, Electra, defined familial antipathy.
The Connemara Collective's production captures the fire and spite of that relationship.
In Beauty Queen, parent and offspring are tied together in the most uncomfortable of circumstances. The elderly Mag (Lynne Griffin) is dependent on Maureen (Rosemary Doyle) to do the most menial of tasks, while Maureen has a secret that has kept her tied to her mother for 15 years.
Enter Pato (Sean Sullivan), a local bachelor who offers the 40-year-old Maureen the chance of liberation. But she doesn't count on the meddling of her closed-minded mother to keep the daughter she's held in a kind of slavery.
Under Wes Berger's direction, the hatred, manipulation and downright nastiness between the two women is at the centre of the play. Performed in close proximity to the audience at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, the two reveal their emotions not only in their dialogue but also in the sly looks as each goads her partner-in-hell.
The climax, an overt eruption of enmity, is chilling and cringeworthy. The following and final scene, though, doesn't hit all of the script's ironic notes.
Griffin gives the whiny, calculating, guilt-inducing Mag a bluster and self-righteousness, while Doyle reveals Maureen's repressed sensuality as well as her insecurities and explosive need for a life beyond the cottage.
But this is an Irish play, so the plot's darkness is leavened with edgy humour. The community is one where, as one character says, "you can't kick a cow without someone holding a grudge for 20 years."
Balancing the tension of the piece, Pato has a touching monologue at the start of the second act, which Sullivan delivers with true poignancy. As Ray, Pato's younger brother, Paul Kelly brings an Irish lilt and charm to the part, contributing to the comedy and, without Ray's knowing it, its tragic outcome, one that involves both elder and "younger" abuse.
This year's World Stage kicks off with @artlive Vogue Ball, a public event that, as World Stage head Tina Rasmussen says, encourages everyone to "stand together, dance together and be a self-constructed freak together."
The event on Saturday (February 1), sponsored by Harbourfront Centre and the House of Nuance, invites you to be part of an interactive party performance where you can strut a runway or just watch and enjoy the theatre of the evening.
Rasmussen, inspired last year when she guest-judged the House of Nuance's Bizarre Ball, sees the event reflecting the season's diversity of shows. Everyone attending has a chance to let loose, be "a little queer or play it totally straight, to be free... however and whatever you want to be."
And if your wardrobe doesn't have the necessary elements for your reinvention, there's a transformation station complete with makeup and a tickle trunk for fancy get-ups.
The $10 admission includes a limited comp bar and nibbles as well as a cash prize. DJ John Caffrey spins the discs.
For more info on the launch/party, check out #artlive or listing.
Toronto theatregoers didn't catch the readings of this year's Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition, but we saw a production of the winning show in SummerWorks 2013.
The readings were held last weekend following a week-long workshop sponsored by Thousand Islands Playhouse and the Queen's University department of drama. The awards, named for Canadian playwright and director Voaden, offer a $3,000 first prize and a $2,000 second prize.
Recipient of the first was Jordan Tannahill's Late Company, which ran at SummerWorks; the runner-up was Jessica Moss's Next To Him. Moss, one of NOW's best artists of 2013, scored in last summer's Fringe with Polly Polly.
The reading of Late Company last weekend, directed by Peter Pasyk - who also helmed the SummerWorks show - included Steve Cumyn, Marion Day, Catherine McNally, Craig Walker and Drew Dafoe. Next To Him's cast was Deb Drakeford, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski and Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, with direction by Thousand Islands Playhouse artistic director Ashlie Corcoran.
Nightwood opens its season with Anupama Chandrasekhar's Free Outgoing, in which a Tamil family faces community hostility when the daughter is caught on video having sex with her boyfriend. (See preview.)
The performance on Friday (January 31), Grand Night, is a funder in support of the Grandmothers To Grandmothers Campaign, part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. There'll be wine, food, a talkback with the actors and a chance to bid on auctioned items.
The evening, hosted by d'bi.young, begins at 6:30 pm.