BWW Review: OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Reverie Theatre Company
A huge fan of playwright John Patrick Shanley (MOONSTRUCK, DOUBT), I was most excited to receive an invitation to review the Austin premiere of OUTSIDE MULLINGAR. This 2014 Tony Award nominee for best play is a romantic comedy set in rural Ireland where opportunities for finding love are limited to say the least. It's a cautionary tale, one in which we are reminded of how easy it can be to allow useless, imaginary fears to keep us from taking a chance on our dreams.
This spectacular Reverie Theatre Company production begins with live Irish music courtesy of a magical fiddle in the capable hands of special guest artist Michael McCauley and complimented by a bit of Irish choreography from Richard Cerato. The music enhances the Irish setting without distracting from Shanley's lyrical text and provides a lovely opening into this enchanting story.
Fresh from the funeral of the family patriarch, Aoife Muldoon and daughter Rosemary pay a quick visit to neighboring farmers Tony and Anthony Reilly. Tony is a widower with a passionate connection with his land reminiscent with that of Gerald O'Hara (patriarch of "Gone with the wind"). To Tony, a man and his familial land are one, and he can't hide the disappointment he harbors in his assumption that only - son Anthony doesn't share that passion. But Rosemary Muldoon certainly shares the Irish land-loving passion, she the only child of Aoife and her just-buried husband. The late Mr. Muldoon never accepted the loss of his newborn son from thirty years ago and while the characters all make references to the depth and breadth of his grief, they too are haunted by and struggle with their own unresolved desires.
I suspect director Michael Cooper is quite proud of his cast, and rightfully so. Laurie Coker is a wickedly delightful Aoife. Saucy and lovable, watching Coker work is an absolute treat. The role of Tony Reilly requires an actor with a palatable sense of gravitas, nobility - and Tom Swift has it in spades. Swift is a fascinating artist and delivers a dynamic, memorable performance.
Anthony Reilly is an extremely complicated man, one of the most difficult roles I've enjoyed in quite some time. Broody, moody, and tortured, he is the Irish Heathcliff and Luke Hill knocks it out of the park in this once-in-a-lifetime role. His performance is a triumph.
Rosemary Muldoon is given life by the exquisite, multi-talented Erin Una Olson. Rosemary is a fiery spirit with a cunning brain and a seemingly infinite amount of patience. Olson relishes this role with the hunger of a hostage and it is a delicious performance. Olson also provides elaborate set and costume designs just right for the space.
This cast wrings out every drop of the humor inherit in Shanley's text and just as importantly they take great advantage of the humor found within character and situation. They revel in these roles without straying into stereotype or caricature and manage to make us fall in love with all of them.
While OUTSIDE MULLINGAR beautifully encapsulates the cold, damp, and lonesome Irish landscape it is by no means a depressing play, far from it. The play has a happy, fairytale ending so sweet that polite applause simply would not do. This audience jumped up and cheered at the end, wishing for more, and so will you.
Do not miss this limited run at Mastrogeorge Theatre through June 30th. Performances are sure to sell out and seating is limited. Tickets are available at reverietheatre.org.