Joan Mullaney portrays a complex mother engaged in a battle of wills in "The Queen of Leenan."

Joan Mullaney portrays a complex mother engaged in a battle of wills in "The Queen of Leenan."

Photo by Richard Brusky

Joan Mullaney has created a dark, disturbing portrait of an aging, devious mother in a power struggle with her middle-aged daughter in “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” The Tony Award-winning play is being presented by an emerging Las Vegas theater organization, A Public Fit, in The Usual Place theater in downtown Las Vegas Feb. 24-March 5.

Set in a small country village in Ireland in the 1990s, a 40-year-old virgin (and caregiver) engages with her 70-year-old mother in a relationship built on co-dependence, fear, deviousness and deception. The play explores the layers of misguided attempts to protect and love while clinging to neediness and self-indulgence.

It is her training that has transformed Mullaney from a confident woman to the decrepit, scared character witnessed on stage. When she was 60, Mullaney decided to pursue and obtain a master’s degree in theater arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At the time, UNLV was putting on four productions, each with a character of an older woman. With perfect timing and synchronicity, Mullaney was accepted into the program. After graduating in 2007, Mullaney planned to either return to New York City or move to Southern California. With the economic downturn, Mullaney felt she was stuck in Las Vegas and her mindset at the time was to try to make the best of it.

“My attitude is now turned 180 degrees for me now [in 2017] from being stuck to finding great opportunities here,” she told AXS.com. Mullaney teaches as well continues to be involved with local Las Vegas theater.

“The Beauty Queen of Leenane” will be the fifth play Mullaney has performed in for A Public Fit theater company. “I love working with [artistic director and co-founder] Ann Marie [Pereth]. It is all working out here in Las Vegas for me.”

Mullaney started in acting as a child and was involved with the New York Metropolitan Opera as a babysitter for other children. “To walk into the Met and hear these glorious voices was amazing.” While her life took her into a different direction including raising a family, Mullaney always pursued acting, even with very small roles in a limited basis.

“The Beauty Queen of Leenane” premiered in 1996 in Ireland with a run in the West End and off-Broadway before debuting on Broadway. It would win four Tony Awards in 1998 including Best Actor (Tom Murphy), Best Actress (Marie Mullen), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Manahan) and Best Director (Garry Hynes) with Hynes becoming the first female to win Tony Award for directing a play. Mullaney actually attended a performance on Broadway of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” not realizing she would portray one of the characters almost 20 years later.

“I knew that woman. She was the mother of a friend of mine. She had charm and wit but was so manipulative. It so resonated with me. I am also thrilled to act in a play with two strong women and interact with that character.”

In the play, as tensions build in the private war between the two women, two men become part of the story a passion explodes in unexpected climax. The play also stars Mindy Woodhead, Mike Rasmussen and Darren Weller.

“The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh and directed by Ann-Marie Pereth will be performed at The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Parkway from Feb. 24-March 5. Performances are 8 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on the weekend. Immediately following the performance, The Buzzz is held as a moderated discussion about the play. To purchase tickets, click here.