The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Reno Stage Scene; ‘The Beauty Queen Of Leenane’ at Brüka Theatre

First performed in 1996, ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ is a dark journey into a dysfunctional home in a dysfunctional Irish Village. 

~Review and Photos by Dana Nöllsch~

The story

Maureen Folan (Played by Stacy Johnson) takes care of her ungrateful mother in a dark house on a hill in the Village of Leenane, Ireland. Her life has been empty except for her resentment toward her controlling mother. Unable to have any relationships outside of the house, Maureen is very frustrated and feels alone.

Maureen’s mother, Mag Folan (Played by Stacey Spain), seems to be a bit off on account of her age, but she has moments of scheming clarity when it comes to controlling her daughter. Unable to care for herself, Mag depends on Maureen for her every need. The fear of being alone and helpless leads Mag to take great joy in controlling her daughter.

This codependent relationship leads to a savage mother-daughter psychodrama to playout inside the walls of the house they share. Each seeks to control the other even small things end up being a battle. As this drama between Maureen and Mag plays out, Maureen dreams of escape at any cost.

Starved for attention, Maureen starts a relationship with Pato Dooley (Played by James Mardock). Their relationship is challenged as Pato’s work takes him away from Leenane, perhaps never to return. Pato’s brother Ray finds himself the go-between delivering messages from Pato to Maureen. 

The story is, at times, darkly funny and, at times, disturbing. “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” is brilliantly written.

Check out the photos to get a glimpse of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” 

The cast

The casting is eerily perfect. 

“The Beauty Queen of Leenane” is an intense play, not only for the audience but the actors as well. The actors play characters with heavy Irish brogues, and this cast does it flawlessly. Now you may think that would make it harder to understand what the actors are saying, but that is not the case. The dialog is comfortable to follow.

Let’s look at the actors starting with Stacy Johnson as Maureen Folan. Johnson shows how she can breathe so much life and emotion into a character. Her portrayal of Maureen is so deep that you can feel Maureen’s vulnerability and frustration. The character has many levels, deep levels, and Johnson explores each of them equally. It was such a treat to see Johnson playing such a profound role.

How about Maureen’s mom, Mag Folan? Stacey Spain shows that Mag, on the surface, is a selfish, mean person, but Spain also reviles Mag’s fear of being alone. Anyone who has cared for an older relative will recognize Mag and empathize with the struggles of being dependent on others. Spain also shows us the vulnerability that comes from being so reliant on another person and the manipulation that can come from the fear of being left alone.

Let’s not forget the would-be boyfriend, Pato Dooley, played by James MardockPato is just looking to find a better life than the one offered in the small village, and Mardock shows Pato’s desire to get out and find that better life. Mardock is spot on and very enjoyable to watch as Pato.

The fourth actor in “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” is Colten Ward as Ray Dooley. Ward brings charisma to the character of Ray, a smoothness with a touch of danger. His facial expressions are brilliant, bringing a visual element to his performance. And the hair flip! I noticed a few times Ward used a smooth hair flip to emphasize the dialog, a small but impactful element. 

We have so many talented actors in the Reno Theater community, and Bruka’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” production has four of the best.

The set

Lewis Zaumeyer has created another stellar set for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” setting the mood of desperation. 

The set can be as important as the actors or the script. The setting for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” has small details that feed the energy of the scenes. Zaumeyer’s sets are always great, but the stage for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” is energetically brilliant. When you see the play pay attention to the rain in the background.

Final Thoughts

Be forewarned that “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” is dark, disturbing, and brilliant on every level. I find myself wanting to see it again so that I can pay attention to the nuances in the performances. I think I will do just that.

Written By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Holly Natwora


Stacy Johnson as Maureen Folan

James Mardock as Pato Dooley

Stacey Spain as Mag Folan

Colten Ward as Ray Dooley



COSTUME DESIGN : Lyndsey Langsdale

SET DESIGN & BUILD: Lewis Zaumeyer

Technical Director: David Simpson


Producer: Mary Bennett

Performance Dates

April 28, 29, May 4, 5, 6, 10 (PWYC), 11, 12, 13, 17 (A) 18, 19, 20, 2023.

Matinees: May 7, 14 @ 2:00 PM

For Tickets and more information, go to:

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