Review of Outside Mullingar
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by David Lear
For tickets / schedule :
Main Stage West, Sebastopol
RUN: March 18 – April 3, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars
(March 18, 2016)
Outside Mullingar premiered in 2014 and is set in an agricultural town in Westmeath, Ireland. A lush area of lakes and farms, it is often washed with rain, reflected in the play with sound design by Albert Casselhoff and an abundance of wellies. Weather is a luminescent thread throughout the play, reflecting character moods, adding misery to their struggles and joy to lighter moments. Two rival farms are adjacent to each other, one cut off from the road thanks to a long-standing feud, but despite these differences, the families are still close.
The younger generation questions whether the hard work of farming is worth the effort, or if it is time to leave it all behind, while the older characters grow bitter at their lives slipping away and strive to find hope in a bleak future. In an age when many fear death or speak of it in reverent tones, Outside Mullingar accepts it and is unafraid to discuss the ramifications. As Marcus Aurelius suggests, “death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back.” Elly Lichenstein as the elderly Aoife audibly creaks her way through grief with enough Irish fire to hold her own when questioned. Riposting her barbs is Clark Miller as crotchety Tony, a farmer who is ready to leave his life, but wants to drag everyone else down with him.
At the play’s heart is the eccentric Rosemary (Sharia Pierce) a dreamer who longs to be a swan, and refuses to give up on her childhood crush, willing to wait years for him to realize she is right next door. Loneliness has turned her passionate poetry to angry jabs at the recipient of her affection. Jereme Anglin as Anthony is an oblivious introvert at one with the fields, rather than comfortable inside with people. It takes a rainy day and a lost treasure to bring the two of them together.
While the premise and plot are predictable and at times cliché, reminiscent of The Decoy Bride with David Tennant, the language flows through otherwise awkward scenes. Playwright John Patrick Shanley brings a quirky realism to a classic romantic comedy, and the setting is enjoyable to relax in for a few hours. Outside Mullingar is a quiet evening in Ireland with a dash of romance. I raise a pint of Guinness to an engaging cast and enjoyable production.