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The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays [Paperback]

Martin McDonagh
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 8 1998 Vintage International
These three plays are set in a town in Galway so blighted by rancor, ignorance, and spite that, as the local priest complains, God Himself seems to have no jurisdiction there.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane portrays ancient, manipulative Mag and her virginal daughter, Maureen, whose mutual loathing may be more durable than any love. In A Skull in Connnemara, Mick Dowd is hired to dig up the bones in the town churchyard, some of which belong to his late and oddly unlamented wife. And the brothers of The Lonesome West have no sooner buried their father than they are resuming the vicious and utterly trivial quarrel that has been the chief activity of their lives.

"[McDonagh is] the most wickedly funny, brilliantly abrasive young dramatist on either side of the Irish Sea.... He is a born storyteller."--New York Times

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Divine Right of Inherited Swag Aug. 22 2000
Martin McDonagh is a recent incarnation of a long line of "angry" young men from across the Atlantic who write plays: John Osborne to Edward Bond to Howard Brenton and David Hare to David Edgar. These writers, however, have had something to be angry about, and something important to say about it. I'm not sure McDonagh does.
Sure, he's a clever storyteller. He fills each of these plays with a witty, self-propelled dialogue, the kind of patter actors love. There's a naughty schoolboy delight in the language. The dialogue is funny and ironic, but often repetitive and monotonous. And, at the end of the day, these plays don't offer much beneath the surface sheen.
Beauty Queen, for example, is about a woman approacing middle-age who, to protect the illusion of her last chance at love, tortures her poor old mum. Knee-jerk theatricality, if you ask me. Where's the insight? the passion? the outrage? In Cripple of Inishmaan, which is not in this collection, but was produced repeatedly in the US a season or so ago, is a larger play that contains the same kind of banter spread among more characters. It's exceptionally hard to make it work in production, mainly because McDonagh substitutes events for action. The play gives a mixed message to the audience, daring you to like the characters but constantly reminding you that the author is ridiculing them.
Of the three McDonagh plays I've seen, the one I thought was most successful was The Lonesome West, which functions on a level much like the others, but has the virtue of being outrageously funny all the way through. Perhaps McDonagh has more invested personally in the sibling rivalry premise: the story rings a little truer and he seems better able to stretch the blarney into a two hour play.
Talented, yes. Prodigy, no. Time will tell whether this angry young man will grow up to be a playwright.
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By A Customer
I haven't seen McDonagh's stuff, but I have read it, and it is indeed brilliant - even if the brilliance begins to grate after six plays written in the exact same manner. It has to be remembered that he grew up in London, because nobody who grew up in Ireland would write quite this way. In fact, plenty of people in Ireland _do_ be talking this way (it's the continuous present tense, used in some rural areas and amongst the urban working class) - they just don't do it quite as intensely, and as often, as he makes out. I believe it's called Creative Exaggeration. As a young Irish playwright, I'm dead jealous, and I would like to make a law against people calling him the best, funniest, whateverest young playwright in Ireland, because nobody's seen the rest of our work yet - but he's onto something, all right. Now let's see what he does next, because surely he can't write the same play _seven_ times.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Irish Soap Opera with familial tilt July 20 1998
By A Customer
The Cripple of Inishman was, by far, the more preferable of Mr. MaDonagh's words. This interesting parable about a fortish plain Jane, her domineering mother and a milquetoast gentleman caller harkens more Tennesse Williams than James Joyce. Still, some moments have sheer intensity and the characters are richly defined to the point of complete empathy at the plays closing moments. Haven't seen the Broadway production, but was very pleased "Art" took home the Tony for Best Play as that has characters as complete and an object of conflict as well, but was much less drifting in it's own drama.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Side of Ireland Superbly Drawn Sept. 21 1998
By A Customer
This shocking and powerful family drama is marred only by its graphic violence (at least, as staged on Broadway), but its expert construction and careful delineation of characters in conflict for their very souls is breathtaking. Certainly the most affecting new play on Broadway last season (including the inconsequential puffball "ART"), it is not easy to behold, but it is certainly compelling. It's only too bad more American playwrights don't write this boldly; they'd do well to take a tip from the Irish.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Martin McDonagh, King of the Irish Theatre Dec 29 1999
If you enjoy the wit and humor of Tennessee Williams' true life dramas, then this modern Irish playwright needs to be on your shelves. McDonagh uses realism to create a wonderful picture of unpleasant lives. Just as the drama begins to take shape, he tosses in a twist of tragic humor that takes surprise to a new level. His "Beauty Queen" and "Lonesome West" have both been nominated for several awards, and they both are very deserving nominees.
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