Outside Mullingar: Irish family drama with rich operatic undertones!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Born and brought up in New York, John Patrick Shanley , author of the screenplay for Moonstruck,   directed by Norman Jewison , captured a   modern Italian American love story that was told in the style of a Puccini opera. Now he has written  a play about  Irish families   deeply rooted in their  ancestral land,This one too has great  operatic undertones !  Structured as a series of solos, duos, trios and quartets, the  characters have to maintain  the music of the  accents  from Dublin to Mullingar in the northern most areas of the Republic , which is  what the  cast of Dave Dawson’s   production at the Gladstone did very well.  We were immediately immersed in a  swelling  of romantic  authenticity and thoughtful intensity   that keeps us captivated for the whole evening.   
This beautifully constructed   piece of linear dramatic literature shows how  the symmetry of the characters and the  logic of the whole  are impeccable .  The final  scene of Act I between the dying father and his son,  ached  with  restrained pathos that gave us another great sense of heaving  operatic emotion , backed up by the sound design, the lighting , the revelation about the son’s  inheritance  and the delicate duo performed by  Vince Carlin (the father ) and Daniel Gervais (the son) .

The  tone of the second act changes radically, revealed by the cozy  redecorated  white kitchen , transformed into the  small apartment occupied by Rosemary, with little flowers on the curtains. This  unexpected  twist takes us along on a new route bringing together  humour and much delicate psychological turnabouts, an important  change  after the somber first act .

In fact the play begins with the  funeral of  Chris Muldoon, the husband of the  feisty Aoife  (Beverly Wolfe), now a  widow trying her best to hold back her tears and  affirm her control of her fiercely independent daughter  Rosemary   who intends to wait until the right man comes along but who thinks maybe there is a chance for her with Anthony,  the boy living on the land next door .

Vince Carlin plays Tony, Anthony’s aging  father who  warns   son Anthony that  he will never  allow him to inherit the farm  because  Anthony  does not know how to fight for what he wants and he has no heirs.  The ghost  of an unknown cousin from America raises its head and the news that Rosemary has frozen her eggs for the future brings in more surprises. The added  narrative complications  are quickly knotted into a relationship between Rosemary, the headstrong  chain-smoking daughter  (a very hard headed Kate Smith) and the quiet, almost timid son Anthony whose almost emotionless performance at the beginning evolves beautifully during the second act. That is  where the dialogue becomes frank, direct even poetic , a form of  verbal jousting   as the two young people  spew out everything they have never dared to say to each other.

It was clear that  the cast was particularly well chosen, that the actors captured the range of emotions so beautifully as each remained true to the  particularities of their designated  family member.  We could only acknowledge  the way  director Dave Dawson gaged the rhythm  and the emotional energy of the  performances,  and deftly brought it all to a climax that was deeply satisfying.

I might suggest however that when Daniel Gervais comes out of the rain into Rosemary’s house at the beginning of Act II, they might toss a bottle of water over his head  in the wings before he enters. He needs to appear  dripping wet in that violent storm,  especially as the man  who is suffering internally.  Anthony was bone dry  when he arrived and something clicked  off in my mind, especially since the stage aesthetics are very realistic and the  script emphasizes  the wild storm

A beautifully moving performance of a singularly engaging play.   Outside Mullingar plays until May 6 at the Gladstone Theatre, performances begin at 7h3o

A production of the Black Sheep Theatre Company, which engages members of Canadian Actors Equity. This is a professional production

Outside Mullingar, written by John Patrick Shanley

Directed by Dave Dawson

Set and lighting by Carolyn Barnes

Costumes by Patrice Forbes

Props and set dressing by Louisa Hache

Sound design by Steven Lafond

Presented by special arrangements with Dramatists Play Service, Inc. New York.


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