The accent is on scathing humor in 'Beauty Queen'

The Beauty Queen of Leenane challenges actors as it entertains audiences.


The play, which opens Friday at Le Chat Noir, is equal parts family drama, black comedy and violent thriller. It's set in the small kitchen of an Irish mother and daughter and revolves around faltering relationships and a search for love and independence.

"What's great about this is, with the exception of the language, this could take place in a trailer park in rural Georgia," said Krys Bailey, the director. "But that language, that Irish dialect, is what makes it unique. It's also been a real challenge. Some of the actors have been working on dialogue since before Christmas."

Nicole Swanson, who plays the daughter, Maureen Folan, said she often runs lines with her husband, Mark, who plays Pato Dooley, ensuring that the distinctive lilt remains constant.

Mr. Bailey said the script asks an audience to identify, empathize and revile these characters, often at the same time.

"These characters are not pretty," he said. "That's important, because every day we put makeup over our blemishes, comb over our bald spots and bury our insecurities. So, for these actors to go on stage and do this is both courageous and important for the play."

Sharon Brooks, who plays the mother, Maggie Folan, said the other challenge is finding ways to transition from dark comedy to drama, from moments of light to despair.

"It does bounce all over the place," she said. "I mean, these are characters that will scream at each other one minute and act gracious and polite the next. That's tough, but it's fun to play with."

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