Review Roundup: OUTSIDE MULLINGAR Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Manhattan Theatre Club's world premiere production of Outside Mullingar, the new play by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner John Patrick Shanley, directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes, opens tonight, January 23 at MTC's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street) in a strictly limited 11-week engagement.
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR features Tony Award winner Brian F. O'Byrne, Emmy Award winner Debra Messing, Peter Maloney (The Cripple of Inishmaan, Dinner at Eight), and Dearbhla Molloy (Dancing at Lughnasa, Arcadia at London's Haymarket Theatre).
Tony winner Brian F. O'Byrne (Frozen, Doubt, Million Dollar Baby) and Emmy winner Debra Messing ("Will & Grace," "Smash," Collected Stories) play Anthony and Rosemary, two introverted misfits straddling 40. With Anthony's father threatening to disinherit him and a land feud simmering between their families, Rosemary has every reason to fear romantic catastrophe. But then, in this very Irish story with a surprising depth of poetic passion, these yearning, eccentric souls fight their way towards solid ground and some kind of happiness.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The wait proves to be a wholly diverting one in "Outside Mullingar," which represents Mr. Shanley's finest work since "Doubt," the winner of both the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. This isn't to suggest that they are equally sturdy or significant plays. For all its satisfactions - which include supporting performances to savor from the wonderful Peter Maloney and Dearbhla Molloy - "Outside Mullingar" is a lighter, slighter play, a softhearted comedy freckled with dark reflections on the unsatisfactory nature of life and the thorns of love. But Mr. Shanley's lyrical writing, and the flawless production, directed by Doug Hughes forManhattan Theater Club, give such consistent pleasure that even though we know the equations that define romcoms will add up to the familiar sums, we are happy to watch as they do.
Matt Windman, AM New York: While the play itself is meandering and uneventful, it opens up considerably in the heartwarming final scene where Anthony and Rosemary finally connect in spite of their hesitations and quirks. It serves as a hearty payoff after over an hour of straight boredom. Messing, who is making her Broadway debut, has noticeable difficulty handling an Irish accent but still manages to make her character sympathetic and endearing. Byrne, who originated the role of Father Flynn in "Doubt," foregoes his charismatic intensity and makes for an unexpectedly cute and quirky counterpart to Messing.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Hitting a sweet spot that recalls his Oscar-winning screenplay for Moonstruck, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar is a charmer of a play about a hesitant romance stalled by petty grievances and misunderstandings. Unapologetic sentimentality without too much treacle isn't easy to do, but the playwright pulls it off with confidence...While Messing's accent is not the most consistent, she's both feisty and funny here, not to mention the picture of a red-haired Irish country rose. She nails all the contradictions in depressed Rosemary's antagonistic approach to Anthony, while steadily opening a window to the longing that's been simmering inside her for years. O'Byrne is superb as a man imprisoned by his own nervousness and lack of self-worth.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Debra Messing, a nice Jewish girl, slides effortlessly into a foursome of otherwise Irish actors in the wistful "Outside Mullingar," a new romantic comedy - that is, by the time it resolves an identity crisis - from award-winning writer John Patrick Shanley ("Doubt")...That Messing makes for a fine ensemble actress is hardly astounding...What is surprising is how convincingly she plays an Irishwoman in her Broadway debut...The erratic, or at least elastic nature of the script almost doesn't matter, though, because the dialogue is so colorful (the college-aged victims of an auto wreck are said to be found with a "badger licking the blood" off their bodies - hey, this is an Irish play) and the acting so sharp, that the 95-minute, intermission-less rom-com, or whatever-this-is, seems to fly by.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne are so, what's a more grown-up word for adorable? -- charming? irresistible? combustible? -- together that we wish this romantic comedy would go on for hours. The problem is that "Outside Mullingar" is only a romantic comedy for the last altogether enchanting scene. For the rest of John Patrick Shanley's 95-minute oddity, we are thrust into some cartoon universe, where rural Irish folk speak wisdom in kooky locutions, fester on peculiar grudges and debate whether shy, middle-aged, hardworking Anthony Reilly (O'Byrne) loves the farm enough to inherit it from his cranky old dad.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: O'Byrne's Anthony is an awkward loner for whom any degree of social interaction is a hurdle, but he conveys a sort of blunt integrity and a disarming sweetness that make it plausible a feisty beauty like Rosemary would fall for him...Rosemary has her own neurotic tics, visible despite the brittle exterior she has developed to ward off various wooers. In Messing's funny, moving performance, we see how Anthony breaks through that armor - even though it's Rosemary who, in an intermittently awkward but endearing climax, determines to force Anthony out of his shell...Outside Mullingar's account of human connection is generally less provocative, and a lot more comforting. But if Shanley is raising less-complicated questions this time, there are flecks of wisdom in his sweetly diverting study.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: It may not be as dramatic as "Doubt" or as funny as "Moonstruck," but John Patrick Shanley has not written a more beautiful or loving play than "Outside Mullingar." The rural dialect spoken on the farms and villages of Ireland translates into prickly poetry under Doug Hughes' helming of this bittersweet family drama about the unresolved issues between cantankerous parents and their obstinate offspring. Playing neighbors whose families are caught up in a bizarre feud over a contested strip of land that separates their two farms, Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne are a match made in heaven.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Messing acquits herself well in her Broadway debut. Though she seems ill at ease through the first half of the show, too aware of the audience and of the effort to keep up her accent, she settles in toward the end when she's able to deploy her gifts for physical comedy...Ultimately, Outside Mullingar is wispier than the smoke from a peat bog. Shanley has a fondness for quirkiness, which provide some of the biggest laughs. At times, though, the oddities threaten to overwhelm the whole affair, particularly in the long final scene between Anthony and Rosemary where they finally, inevitably confront their long-suppressed feelings...For plays, though, feelings can come in handy. In the end, too few of them quite ring true here. B
David Cote, TimeOut NY: Mullingar is Shanley's best play since Doubt, and like that hit from a decade ago, it's lean, dialectical and packed with wise saws and aphoristic gems. The Irish setting also gives him license to wax lyrical-pastoral-a pleasure if you've no allergy to rants and blarney. "You might as well try to stop the calendar from naming the days," Rosemary loftily informs stubborn Tony. "I've been older than all of you since I was born, and sure I ache for my own youth." If such stuff doesn't cause a wild rose to bloom in your heart, it's turned barren as stone.
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: Like his Oscar-winning screenplay for "Moonstruck," the play is a valentine to the wonder and weirdness of love. Instead of Cher shouting, "Snap out of it!," Debra Messing calls the shots - and with an Irish brogue.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Overall, it's as if Shanley, director Doug Hughes and the Manhattan Theatre Club had been afraid to let this play be as small as it needs to be. Even the production overcompensates, with meticulous rotating sets by John Lee Beatty and elaborate water effects. It's never a good sign when you find yourself looking away from actors to watch falling rain.
Roma Torre, NY1: Shanley has captured a very authentic voice with these characters. The lonely gentleman farmer, the plain-spoken, dry-humored elders and the spunky girl next door may at first seem to be standard types, but Shanley has nicely shaded them in. And Doug Hughes' immaculate production provides a very satisfying emotional arc.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: What makes much of this entertaining, even if it's dramatic folderol, is a combination of Shanley's winning affection for his characters, committed portrayals by a quartet of fine actors, under the spirited direction of Doug Hughes, and lots of jokes that are funny when delivered with a brogue.
Jesse Green, Vulture: Outside Mullingar is comforting in its theatrical familiarity. On the packing list of required elements, no item is left unchecked. Irish-ish stars? Sure: The production is headed by Brían F. O'Byrne (born in County Cavan) and Debra Messing (hey, she's got red hair). Dank setting? John Lee Beatty's scenery looks like it was dredged from a peat bog. An old Hibernian air? Please join me in singing "Wild Mountain Thyme." Everything, including the kitchen sink, screams Ireland as we know it from plays great and small: the wellies, the crucifix, the rain, the mad stories, the fierce colleen, the crafty old man, the wake, the Guinness, the touch of the poet. It begins with a yarn and is itself a yarn.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Far more the stage veteran, the supremely talented O'Byrne is oddly colorless here - until the final scene when he hesitatingly describes himself in tremulous voice as a "honey bee" and Rosemary as a "flower." Somehow, as the way it is played here under Doug Hughes's direction, Anthony comes off as a violet to Rosemary's hornet. While many in the audience made it clear that they found this scene both hilarious and touching, others may applaud in relief at the Delayed Curtain.
Steve Suskin, Huffington Post: Outside Mullingar is another homegrown production of Manhattan Theatre Club, which has now produced ten Shanley plays. Director Doug Hughes, also from Doubt, keeps the action moving smoothly between the four sets and sustains the mood over one hundred intermissionless minutes. Not the least of Outside Mullingar's delights is the rain-soaked scenery by John Lee Beatty, which provides its own magic in the final scene. Mullingar is admittedly not quite so imperishable and rarefied as Leenane or Inishmaan, no. But Messing and Byrne are likely to leave you with a moonstruck glow.