When actress Marie Mullen came to the Atlantic Theater Company in 1998 as one of the stars of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, few people in the U.S. had heard of playwright Martin McDonagh.

That has changed. Since that year, when Beauty Queen moved to Broadway, was nominated for a Tony Award and won Mullen her own Tony, three other McDonagh plays have graced Broadway: The Lonesome West, The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. The latter also began life at the Atlantic, the Off-Broadway theatre that is currently hosting a new and acclaimed production of McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan. Mullen is part of the ensemble of the Garry Hynes-directed co-production with The Druid Theatre, which also stars McDonagh veterans Andrew Connelly and Kerry Condon. She spoke to about McDonagh plays past and present. How has this experience compared to the first time you came to America with a Martin McDonagh play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane?
Marie Mullen: It's a completely different play for me. I loved Beauty Queen. I got very emotionally involved in that, as the character, a woman who is not very stable mentally. We had to deal with things like the murder of an old lady and situations where a woman thought she had found love and it didn't happen. The whole situation with Beauty Queen from a play point of view was very different from what I'm going through now as Kate. But for all that, the experience I'm having with this play is equally as exciting as the one I had with Beauty Queen. You know New Yorkers — they just get it. Sometimes they're way ahead of us. They have no problems understanding Martin. They have no problems with the accents. When you came to New York with Beauty Queen, New York theatregoers knew nothing of Martin McDonagh and his work's brutality came as something of a shock. Since then, theatregoers have had the opportunity to see almost every one of his plays. Do you feel you're dealing with a more educated audience this time around, as far as knowledge of the playwright is concerned?
MM: I do. I can feel that familiarity. They immediately turn on to his style of writing. They're more familiar with his style and what he's trying to get at. I love Cripple because it's a kind of redemption that we didn't have in Beauty Queen. There's a sense of a huge beating heart at the beginning of Cripple — though not a soft heart, because Martin, if he's one thing, it isn't soft and emotional. He's firm and irreverent about people's situations and how people should react, and he's not very P.C. at times. Some of the critics have said Cripple represents a gentler version of McDonagh.
MM: That is very true, Robert. I think it is a gentler version. I think the humanity and the heart of the man comes through in Cripple and a sense of redemption for the boy who has never been kissed and who against all odds has found some kind of other level to operate on — with the girl and finding a place where he is loved. And there's a real sense of the insular lives of people who live on an island together. What is your take on the nature of the play? At times it feels like a drama, at other times it's comic, and still other times it almost seems like a satire, like McDonagh is making fun of the idea of the "Irish play."
MM: I think that's right. I think that he has taught the Irish nation to laugh at ourselves more. I think that's healthy. We're always going on about Yeats and O'Casey, and in my heart I love them. He makes us look at ourselves and say, "We have all these things, but also we're known for being very silly." He treats us like adults. He doesn't spoon-feed us. One of the things that people say about Martin McDonagh plays is that they're violent. I found this out the other night when I saw the show. During the scene when the characters are watching the movie, the actress playing Helen chucked an eggshell at what would be the screen, and it hit me square in the eyeglasses!
MM: Was it you! Yes. It was quite stunning. So I guess McDonagh plays can be dangerous for the audience as well!
MM: You know, Kerry [Condon, the actress] was mortified! Her face just fell. She hits the back wall of the theatre normally. Oh, my God, wait until I tell her it was you. (Laughing) I thought to myself, "This is my ultimate Martin McDonagh experience!"
MM: (Laughs) It's so Martin McDonagh-ish!

David Pearse, Marie Mullen and Dearbhla Molloy in <i>The Cripple of Inishmaan</i>
David Pearse, Marie Mullen and Dearbhla Molloy in The Cripple of Inishmaan Photo by Keith Pattison
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