BWW Review: OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at Delaware Theatre Company
For those of us who have visited Ireland and basked in the bountiful love and generosity of its people, the plays of its most famous authors are striking in contrast. There are no strangers when one visits the Emerald Isle. However, the plays of Brian Friel, Sean O'Casey and John Millington Synge are rife with meditation, mourning and melancholy. (The latter author's 'Playboy of the Western World" caused riots in Dublin when initially staged in 1907. When the actors came to America in 1911, they were jailed).
So, it was with a bit of trepidation as I took my seat at Saturday's opening of OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at DE Theatre Co. Aisle Say is depressed enough with the Emperor with no clothes.
Program notes: Playwright has this Irish sounding name, John Patrick Shanley. Ah, but he was born in the Bronx, not County Cork, Donegal, what have you. "Good", I mused, "That's a start". I discovered later that Shanley had won an Oscar for the screenplay of "Moonstruck", but more on that in a wee bit.
The audience is greeted with a monolithic two-story set by Scenic Designer Colin McIlvaine, perfectly capturing a rustic, dirt-poor Irish farmhouse. The apparatus moves to create another set for another scene. The muted and somber brown and gray hues of Thom Weaver's light designs create the ambiance of first 3 acts but are dramatically awash with sunshine, joy and hope in the finale.
Tony (Dan Kern) and son Anthony (Charlie DelMarcelle) have invited neighbors Aoife (Nancy Boykin) and willful daughter Rosemary (Kim Carson) to their home after the funeral of Aoife's husband. They have had adjoining farms for over 40 years. Tony is the forever curmudgeon, comforting the grieving widow with ..." when the husband goes, the wife goes quickly" and "you'll be dead in a year".
Tony threatens to disinherit his son when he passes because in his mind, Anthony "does not love the farm" and more importantly with the 42-year-old still unmarried, "there will be no heir". This enrages the combative Rosemary (of similar age), who coincidentally has been passed ownership of a right of way for egress to Tony's acreage - a literal roadblock for a potential inheritance.
Some of us have had bonding issues with a parent. In a particularly touching scene on Tony's deathbed, he admits "Anthony, am I proud of you too late?" Beautifully spoken by Kern and beautifully accepted by Delmarcelle. Aoife has a similar lament. Close to her own passing, she explores, "I don't mind (to die) except to leave Rosemary orphaned altogether".
In the denouement, Anthony visits Rosemary in her home. Rosemary peels off the layers of bitterness of her empty life in front of the tragically, emotionally awkward Anthony. She has always loved him since the time when she was 7 and he pushed her into a lake. "Anthony, do you dwell on my beauty? Do you know I have a shape? Are you homosexual"? Anthony is at a complete loss and begs to leave. "My emotions are unspeakable". Rosemary is not done, not by a long shot.!"Do you know I almost reached for that shotgun behind the door because you would not love me?"
Anthony is stunned. But the real question is... will he acknowledge his own feelings? During this suspenseful interchange, the audience sat in church-like obeisance, waiting for what must be the next torrent of emotions spewing from both actors. Anthony had been spurned of a past love and had resigned himself to live a solitary life. However, he was standing in the kitchen of a relentless force of nature who would not be denied comfort and love in her remaining years.
Provoked by a demanding Rosemary, Anthony pours out his soul, giving truth to the audience that to be loved wholly one most expose that part of oneself one is most ashamed of.
Anthony: "I am a honeybee and (my feeling for you) is like a honeybee that flies around in my mind". Rosemary is in disbelief. With impeccable timing, she waits a few beats and then turns to the audience. We respond en masse with an emotional gasp of timid laughter. To Anthony she says:"And I am a blossom!" This is followed by a cascade of joyful relief from all of us.
Back to playwright Shanley: Remember when Cher slapped Nicholas Cage twice in "Moonstruck" and screamed "Get over it?" Same effect at DTC!
Rosemary concludes with "why not go ahead and be happy". Yeah, a bit sappy, but it works. This play makes us all laugh and cry. We sure can use that now.
Director Bud Martin, himself a son of Erin, did a wonderful job of staging. Even more platitudes goes to the timing/rhythm he so instructed his charges.
Dialect coach Marcia Hepps ensured that everyone spoke in the proper brogue. Spot on. And, in that same lilting brogue, she ever so kindly reminded the audience prior to curtain to silence the phones!
I must agree with Martin on a comment he made to opening night audience. "Someone said the success of a show is 80% dependent on casting".
True. These four actors won our hearts.
Though March 1 Delaware Theatre Company 302.594.1100
Next Up: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET April 15