BWW Reviews: O'Byrne and Messing are Enchanting Introverts in OUTSIDE MULLINGAR
Brian F. O'Byrne and Debra Messing make for an enchanting pair of introverts finally coming to terms with emotions they've been bottling up for most of their lives in John Patrick Shanley's warm and quirky new romantic comedy, Outside Mullingar.
Twelve year old Anthony Reilly once pushed six year old Rosemary Muldoon on a small patch of Irish Midland just outside their families' neighboring farmhouses. Three decades later, Anthony can't even remember the event, but Rosemary sure remembers and now that patch of land is a point of contention between their only surviving parents, Anthony's darkly-humored father (Peter Maloney) and Rosemary's cleverly-witted mother (Dearbhla Molloy).
Both children, for related reasons, have spent their lives without romantic partners, taking care of their parents and the family farms. Messing gives Rosemary a hard, protective exterior that confuses O'Byrne's Anthony and awkwardly compounds his shyness towards her. The lack of chemistry between the pair is played with extraordinarily touching chemistry by the actors, leaving audience members begging for one to bravely break the ice between them.
When circumstances leave them as their only immediate human company, the play switches from charming Irish lyrical humor to more aggressive comedy as the two adult innocents begin communicating their feelings for the first time and start sorting out the last thirty years.
Shanley tosses in a bit of weirdness at that point, played with impressive conviction, and then builds on it with a heart-grabbing admission that'll have you screaming for them to finally kiss already. But before the final blackout, there's the hint that the weirdness has only just begun.
Though taking place in recent times, designer John Lee Beatty's cozy farmhouse settings give the evening a lovely vintage feel. There's neither a cell phone nor a laptop in sight and director Doug Hughes' tender production palpably mixes a traditionally romantic mood with darker hues of unspoken yearnings.
It's a wonderfully played adult fable about a pair that's simply imperfect for each other.