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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Outside Mullingar" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Outside Mullingar" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Manhattan Theatre Club
Outside Mullingar
(Outside Mullingar Website)

By John Patrick Shanley

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Directed by Doug Hughes

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Brian F. O’Byrne, Debra Messing
Peter Maloney, Dearbhla Molloy

Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Design: Mark McCullough
Original Music & Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Casting: Nancy Piccione
Production Stage Manager: Winnie Y. Lok
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Artistic Producer: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Artistic Line Producer: Lisa McNulty

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 6. 2014

In several scenes of interminable rain, two neighbors of feuding personas manage to create sunlight. Brian F. O’Byrne is Anthony Reilly, the introverted, laconic son of Tony Reilly (Peter Maloney), who’s thinking about his will, as he returns from a neighbor’s funeral. These aren’t characters singing vibrantly at an Irish wake, but rather characters estimating mortality as they till the earth. Anthony makes tea for the widowed neighbor, Aoife Muldoon (Dearbhla Molloy), and their witty, somewhat flirtatious banter turns to their adjoining land. The next door neighbors, the deceased Chris Muldoon and Tony, had a deal long ago on a small front parcel of Reilly’s land, but it wasn’t Aoife’s to inherit, but rather her daughter’s, Rosemary Muldoon (Debra Messing), who’s known Anthony his whole life. Rosemary holds a decades-long grudge about being pushed in child’s play, by Anthony, and Anthony holds a grudge about being rejected by a former flame. Tony holds a grudge about his son’s late single status (40’s), as he wants the farm kept for the Reilly’s. He complains that his son took after his wife more than him, and maybe a nephew in America, a “true” Reilly, should buy it, so Anthony can find a new life from the purchase.

As this lovely, intermission-less play proceeds, the simplicity of just four characters allows the audience to absorb and predict twists and turns in the interactions and dialogues between Tony and Aoife, Anthony and Rosemary, Anthony and his father, and so on. There are generous pauses as well, when one might guess what a character is reflecting upon, as they stand in the “land”, in Tony’s kitchen, or Rosemary’s kitchen. The Irish dialect is gorgeous to listen to, and Ms. Messing’s, as well, is expressively authentic. Mr. O’Byrne’s character exudes vulnerability, trepidation, conflict, and longing, while Ms. Messing’s character exudes willfulness, womanliness, optimism, and longing, as well. They’re a match. As the latent romance finds fertile emotional soil to grow confidence and physicality between the two, the gestural and muscular language becomes as riveting as the flowing, sometimes fiery conversations. Each actor reveals just enough to sustain suspense. John Patrick Shanley writes for a mature audience, one that has patience and pathos.

Doug Hughes has directed for expressive nuance, for incremental, illustrative shifts in tone and affect. John Lee Beatty’s kitchens, although in next-door homes, express manliness or femininity, a bit of personality here and there. One just knows that the question of the parcel of land that would make the Reilly property whole again will soon be part of a larger plan. One just knows that the physical stage space, as Anthony and Rosemary stand in the Muldoon kitchen, will rapidly evaporate. Catherine Zuber dresses the characters in uncomplicated, casual attire, although Tony and Aoife were initially dressed in funeral attire. Music and sound by Fitz Patton enhances the scenic interludes. But, it’s Mark McCullough’s lighting that was a veritable highlight, illuminating the hearth and window exteriors, when the rain dies down. Kudos to Manhattan Theatre Club.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at