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.