Martin McDonagh’s films—2008’s In Bruges and last year’s Seven Psychopaths—are black comedies in the mold of the Coen brothers. But his plays are darker affairs. Two trilogies set in the lonesome west of Ireland depict aimless lives and hopeless dreams. Two of them, one from each set, are now playing in the region. Both have been called comedies, but they’re comic in the way Chekhov’s dour portraits of provincial boredom and despair are—ironic commentaries on the absurdity of the human condition.
Despite its harsh title, The Cripple of Inishmaan is the sunnier of the two. Presented by Apron Theater, a new Vermont-based troupe, it details the misadventures of a boy who’s determined to get cast in a Hollywood film. And despite its deceptively optimistic title, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the bleaker one. Starring Shakespeare & Company founder Tina Packer, it’s a mother-daughter conflict with, literally, lives at stake.
The Cripple of Inishmaan: Aug. 8-11, 15-17, Next Stage Arts, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney, Vt., (802) 387-0071, www.nextstagearts.org.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane: Aug. 8-Sept. 15, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. (413) 637-3353, www.shakespeare.org.