The play is a blend of black comedy, melodrama, horror and bleak tragedy. The story is set in an Irish village Leenane, Connemara in the early 1990s. The entire play takes place in a shabby, poorly lit kitchen, resulting in a claustrophobic sense of entrapment.

The play centers on the life of Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old spinster who takes care of her 70 year-old, selfish and manipulative mother Mag. Sisters of Maureen have escaped into marriage and family life, but Maureen, with a history of mental illness, is trapped in a seriously dysfunctional relationship with her mother.

In the course of the play, the Folan cottage is visited by Pato Dooley and his younger brother Ray. Pato is a middle-aged construction worker fed up with having to live and work in England, disappointed by the limitations and loneliness of his life. The sameness of its day-to-day is tedious also for his brother, a non-threatening "bad boy" Ray.

The glimmer of a last-chance romance between Maureen and Pato sparks up in the first act, and continues in the second one with a notable monologue of Pato. The plot, full of deceptions, secrets and betrayals interspersed with turnabouts keeps surprising the audience. Hopes are raised only to be dashed.

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