Ed. note: About a month ago, D Magazine events editor and FrontRow theater critic Liz Johnstone circulated a recurring series of articles from theater website TheaterMania called “Bros on Broadway.” Their premise was simple: coerce warm-blooded American males—people who don’t, say, make it a point to catch every production of A Doll’s House or read Ben Brantley on the regular—into attending a live theatrical performance. And then have these dudes write about it. The results were equal parts insightful and hilarious. So much so, we thought we’d give it a try too.
Welcome to our spin-off (well, shamelessly stolen) concept, “The Broducers,” in which we tap young Dallas-dwelling males, send them off to the theater, and see what they think of it all. Here’s the first dispatch, from Michael Hassett, a 31-year-old The Black Keys fan we found sitting on the other side of the office in D Magazine‘s art production department. He brings us this dispatch from Kitchen Dog Theater’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane. To read all the pieces in this series go here.
Name: Michael Hassett
Occupation: Advertising Art Director, D Magazine
What’s your favorite TV show? Right now? Homeland.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? I’m a comfort foodie. Chicken-fried meats and mashed potatoes.
You have a free Saturday and can be anywhere in the world and do anything you want. What do you do? I’d kick those rich bastards out of those two court side seats right next to the Mavs bench and make Dirk my friend. And I’d drink beer doing it.
Do you have a hobby you obsess over? Most recently making side tables out of found stumps. Yep.
Let me start by saying that I don’t usually do this sort of thing. As an Art Director I like to play the part of someone who is well-rounded, well-read, and somewhat up to date on current events. I like to think that I’m cultured, but honestly when I agreed to this review it was mainly so that I’d have an excuse to wear my skinny jeans and those non-prescription eyeglasses I bought, the ones that I’m afraid to actually wear to work. The jeans were great, although a little too tight in the crotch to comfortably sit for two hours, especially with my car keys digging into my thigh. The glasses stayed at home where they belonged.
The actual theater itself is quaint; with a steep stadium style seating that went maybe 6 rows deep on two sides of the stage. The stage was made to look like the interior of a shabby, unkempt house, mainly a kitchen and living room combo that stretched from the audience’s left to right. Everything appeared to be made of marzipan.
The story is set in 1989 Ireland, and the accents are so thick it took me 15 minutes to make out my first word. Mag Folan (Nancy Sherrard) and her daughter Maureen Folan (Karen Parrish) coexist together as means to get by, and have a relationship that’s been damaged by years of selfishness and abuse, though there’s a strange underlying comfort in their shared hardship—think Laverne and Shirley, if Laverne was a 40-something year old virgin with a foul mouth and Shirley was her overweight, spiteful mother who pees in the kitchen sink.
Maureen’s one chance at love is spoiled when her mother decides to destroy the love letter written by Pato Dooley (Scott Latham) inviting Maureen to move with him to Boston. Mag, fearing she will be left alone to make her own porridge and tea, disposes of the message delivered by Pato’s brother Ray (Drew Wall) by tossing it in the fireplace. Ray is a bit of a Squiggy character (to continue the Laverne & Shirley comparison), and exists only to provide a few yuks, which he does with some success. Pato, though, is a likeable guy, really the only one we’d see that night. He appears to be the lovechild of Alan Alda and Jeff Foxworthy, and is a modest and humble fellow who seems to be able to look past Maureen’s rough façade, calling her the Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Act one was a little slow, devoted to establishing relationships and building the characters, which they did fairly quickly and with some success. Once you were able to drown out the car alarm in the parking lot towards the end of the first act, you were able to predict how this story was going to end—you just weren’t sure how it was going to get there. Was Maureen the closet psychopath her mom made her out to be? Or was Mag a meddling mother, hell-bent on keeping her daughter and caretaker by her side as her health fades?
Intermission. It appears the car alarm disturbing the first act wasn’t going to stop until I made it stop, seeing as how it was my car all along. I guess I inadvertently triggered the panic button on my fob with my thigh sometime around the time I watched Mag pour her bucket of urine down the kitchen sink. If I had a tail to tuck you would have seen it nestled tightly in the same tight jeans that caused this whole incident.
Act two was naturally much more entertaining as the conflict neared a resolution. When Maureen finds out what her mother has done, she does the only thing she can do to free herself from her mother’s restraints. What happens next shocked me, and I spend many of my nights watching Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire. The 60-something year old woman in front of me, however, reacted like I do every time I watch the replay of Joe Theismann being put out to pasture by Lawrence Taylor—disgusted, but willing to hit the rewind button a few times. I sensed that this satisfied some brittle, yet sadistic bone in her body that had long been forgotten.
Though the storyline is hardly unique, it is nonetheless tragic. Parrish was fantastic by my admittedly low standards, but I thought the same about the movie The Transporter. Sherrard and Latham also performed well. The character of Pato Dooley had less layers, but Latham was able to quickly establish himself as a genuine, caring goober. His brother Ray was a bit different. Wall played the character a bit like a heavy-footed sitcom boob, complete with the exaggerated facial expressions. I suppose this is how the part was designed, although it seemed a bit out of place. The foursome complimented each other nicely, however, and perhaps that is most important.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane was a pleasant surprise of a show. There aren’t too many moments where you look at your watch, and if you’re able to power through the thick accents, car alarms, and inseam numbness, it’s quite enjoyable. Better yet, ride your bike and wear loose fitting clothing and you are almost guaranteed to get your money’s worth.
Do you know any “bros” that we could send to a show? This could be your boyfriend, college friend, husband, nephew, friend’s son, the guy who cleans your pool, etc. We want to ship these non-theatrically-inclined folks out to our local theaters. They get free tickets to the theater—or, in other words, the means and excuse to take their significant others on a legitimate date. If so, email: firstname.lastname@example.org