I made my second visit for theatre in Newark, Delaware, last night. This time, it was to the local community theatre, Chapel Street Players, for show #51: their production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh. This Newark, for some reason, is pronounced “NEW ARK”, not “Nooark” – hence my entry title.
I feel the need to add some non-specific comments about my relationship to community theatre. At some point this year, or maybe even the year before that, I became aware that I was attending shows at mostly Equity/professional companies. As an Equity member myself and with a theatre background, it made sense to me that I’d have high standards. But I also wanted to do more comparing and contrasting of productions. So I set the intention to vary it up more between the regional houses, local professional companies, and community organizations. I’m not sure how successful that has been, but I do intend to make a year end listing of shows, so all will be revealed by that time.
With that in mind, I couldn’t help but reflect on my high standards when seeing this show. It was a serviceable and well focused effort from the quartet of actors, all of whom seemed to have worked with the company before. But the company’s possibly tight budget was revealed awkwardly with some of the props, and a surprising staging choice involving lights at the top of the second act. The accent work (Irish) was extremely detail oriented and well put together throughout the whole show. Most of the play is composed of two person scenes for which the respective actors had clearly put effort and attention into.
However, I didn’t really absorb the black comedy angle that I know McDonagh intended to appear somewhere in the play. It left me wondering about interpretations and challenges of creative material – if McDonagh’s film In Bruges, for instance, was played as a melodrama, would it have the same effect? (I don’t think so.) This version seemed unevenly melodramatic.
Despite my wider mixed impressions of community theatre, there’s no denying the heart and soul that the actors put into their work. In most cases, they want to be there on that stage, not just for the work or for the credit, and that energized feeling nearly always finds its way to the spotlight.