BWW Review: OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Buffalo Theatre Ensemble
Playwright John Patrick Shanley's OUTSIDE MULLINGAR fits neatly into the tradition of his Irish-American heritage; through unpretentious characters and witty dialogue, he spins a tale that explores universal themes of loneliness, longing, home, and family. Steve Scott directs this production by the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, the Equity company in residence at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn, IL.
Set in rural Ireland, OUTSIDE MULLINGAR tells the quirky love story of Anthony Reilly (Robert Jordan Bailey) and Rosemary Muldoon (Kelli Walker), two lifelong neighbors approaching middle age without having found their place in the world. The play also explores their relationships with their aging parents, Anthony's father (Norm Woodel) and Rosemary's mother (Millie Hurley). Pauline Oleksy's set design and Jesse Gaffney's properties design evoke the cozy farmhouses and lush, rain-soaked landscape in which these characters reside.
The four-person cast has many strong points to note. The dry Irish banter, which draws plenty of laughs from the audience, is particularly well-timed by Walker and Hurley. A more serious scene featuring Woodel and Bailey provides a touching portrait of father-son reconciliation. The second act - consisting of one extended two-hander scene - tackles issues of grief, mental illness, loneliness, and love as Walker and Bailey's characters vulnerably open up about their inner demons.
While the play has many moving moments, the early scenes provide a rather weak foundation that curtails the full impact of the ending. The plot's central conflicts are hastily introduced and somewhat underdeveloped, especially in regard to the characters' relationships. This fault lies primarily in the writing, rather than the direction or the performances. The memorable scenes previously mentioned, which are skillfully acted, would have a greater payoff if the emotional stakes on which they rest were more thoroughly developed early on.
Nevertheless, OUTSIDE MULLINGAR offers an amusing and poignant portrayal of damaged, loveable characters trying to find their way in the world. In this story of four middle-aged and elderly people, there are relatable moments no matter one's age or stage of life.
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR runs through June 3 at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137. Tickets are available at www.atthemac.org or 630-942-4000.
Photo credit: Rex Howard Photography