|Marty Rea and Aisling O'Sullivan. Photo: Aaron Monaghan|
I was recently in a restaurant where a baby shower was taking place, the young mother-to-be beaming at the center of a table festooned with balloons proclaiming “It’s a Girl.” I was tempted to ask her if she’d ever gone to the theater.
Obviously, many mothers and daughters have long and happy relationships. It’s just that you don’t see them that often on the stage. In fact, many of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights have shone their spotlight all too brightly on this most complex and difficult of familial situations. Take Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, where the self-sufficient Amanda Wingfield gets repeatedly frustrated with her handicapped, painfully shy daughter Laura (“Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans—my hopes and ambitions for you—just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.”) to Marsha Norman’s devastating “’Night Mother,” where mom Thelma faces, not always effectively or politely, the possibility of depressed daughter Jessie committing suicide.
More recently, we’ve witnessed Tracy Letts’ devastating August Osage County, during which eldest daughter Barbara finally loses her patience after one of her drug-addicted mother Violet’s nastiest outbursts, tackling her to the ground and loudly announcing what she erroneously believes is a now-permanent shift in their power dynamic. (“You don’t get it: I’m in charge now!”)
And then there’s perhaps the most toxic of all mother-daughter relationships—the one between elderly Mag Folan and her 40-year-old spinster daughter Maureen in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a Druid production at the BAM Harvey Theater from January 11 to February 5.