by Gail M. Burns, July 2003

After preview performances last week, Main Street Stage officially opens their production of Martin McDonagh’s prize-winning play The Beauty Queen of Leenane tomorrow night.

Set in the present day in the mountains of Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, The Beauty Queen of Leenane tells the darkly comic tale of Maureen Folan (Stephanie Hedges), a plain and lonely woman, and Mag (Ruth Duncan), her manipulative aging mother, whose interference in Maureen’s first and possibly final chance of a loving relationship sets in motion a train of events that leads inexorably towards the play’s terrifying dénouement. Mike Foster as Pato Dooley and Andrew Bemis as Ray Dooley round out the cast.

Director Frank La Frazia had an opportunity to see the original cast, who transported their production across the Atlantic to New York City in 1998. “The show was incredibly moving,” La Frazia recalls, “The story inspired me, especially the relationship between the mother and daughter. Mag is manipulative, not willing to let Maureen go. And Maureen grabs at what she sees as her last chance at freedom and happiness.”

“This play is very visceral. You don’t have to have a Masters’ in sociology to understand what is going on,” La Frazia explained, “And its a smart play. It works on many levels.”

“This has been a dream come true cast for me, they are just wonderful,” La Frazia said, “The hardest part for all of us as been to just dive in and go to those not so pleasant places in the human soul. The stage violence has been a challenge.”

Jack Donovan has created an appropriately simple and slightly claustrophobic Irish cottage in Main Street’s narrow storefront theatre, complete with a working sink and radio, thanks to the sound design expertise of Langdon C. Crawford.

La Frazia is already looking ahead to the fall season at Main Street Stage, which he envisions as becoming a year-round regional theatre for north Berkshire. “We don’t do summertime ‘Broadway in the Berkshires’” La Frazia said, “There aren’t any year-round theatres operating in this area, and I think people want that. Our audience has really been growing lately. We’ve even had a couple of sold out houses.”

The fall season will include a September production of two one-act plays – Cigars by Chris Newborn and Sails and Eggshells by Effy Redman – developed in a collaborative effort with Main Street neighbor Inkberry last winter. Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Inspector Hound will be performed from mid-October to mid-November, and Main Street’s December offering will be an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs August 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, & 23 at 8 p.m. and tickets are $12 general admission, $8 for students. There will be one matinee performance on Sunday August 10 at 2 p.m. Main Street Stage will have a community night performance where attendees are asked to “pay what you can”, on Thursday, August 14 at 8 p.m.

Main Street Stage is located at 57 Main Street in North Adams. For reservations or information please call 413-663-3240.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003

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