BWW Review: OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Berkshire Theatre Group Charms Audiences with a Delightful and Refreshing Evening's Entertainment.
From the Pulitzer, Tony and Oscar award winning author of DOUBT: A PARABLE and MOONSTRUCK, John Patrick Shanley, comes this romantic comedy set in rural Ireland that you've likely never heard of. OUTSIDE MULLINGAR is the unlikely story of Anthony and Rosemary, two middle-aged farmers who haven't got a clue when it comes to love. As Anthony struggles to prove his worth to his aging father, Rosemary copes with her aging mother and grief at the recent loss of her father. With time slipping away, these eccentric souls will need to overcome a bitter land feud, family rivalries and their own romantic fears in order to find happiness. Their journey is heartbreaking, funny, and ultimately wonderful. This tenderhearted story reminds us that it's never too late to take a chance on love.
Simple, straight-forward, uncomplicated. There are no hidden agendas, no villains to uncover, no mysteries to solve. There is banter in that almost lyrical Irish rhythm, some barbs, and a bit of black humor. The messages are frank and direct. An example of which is Tony's justification for not wanting to leave his farm to Anthony: "You don't stand on the land and draw life from it as I did". The dialog is carefully chosen. It is amusing but also serves to allow us to see into and connect deeply with the characters, rather than just advance the plot.
Everything about this charming, sweet, and disarming production works together in near perfect harmony resulting in a delightful experience for the audience. OUTSIDE MULLINGAR is directed by Karen Allen who in addition to her more well-known credits (Animal House, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones) has been an active member of the Berkshire Theatre Festival for over ten years. It has been suggested that this is her best work in our area to date and I have no reason to suggest otherwise. The lighting designed by Shawn Boyle is soft and gentle.
The sound, designed by Scott Killian, suggests a steady stream of gentle rain falling over what at first appears to be a simple set designed by John McDermott. That set is quite remarkable and brilliantly well designed. What seems to be a single piece of scenery shifts and transforms throughout the hour and 45-minute production revealing it to be extremely functional, efficient, and effective. The dialogue is delivered clearly with charming Irish accents influenced by Dialect Coach, Jennifer Scapetis-Tycer. The tone is gentle, and the pace relaxed. It was one of the most comfortable experiences I have had in a theatre. It was almost as if a gentle babbling brook flowed through the fields around us. This contributes to the high level of comfort and familiarity with, as well as fondness for the characters. That, of course, is due in large part to the strength and quality of the actors who know and share those characters with us so adeptly. The talented and well-balanced ensemble includes Jeffrey DeMunn as Tony Reilly, Deborah Hedwall as Aiofe Muldoon his neighbor, James McMenamin as Anthony Reilly - Tony's son, and Shannon Marie Sullivan as Rosemary Muldoon - Aiofe's Daughter.
In a time when most of us are tied to electronic devices, and we are bombarded by messages, tweets, compressed news cycles, and Fear Of Missing Out, it is rare that we have an opportunity to step-back, disconnect, decompress, and focus simply on the people and things that really matter. OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre presents such an opportunity that you would be wise to take advantage of. Performances continue at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge through July 13.