Aired on KSDS-FM on 2/5/16
RUN DATES: 1/21/16 2/21/16
VENUE: San Diego Repertory Theatre
There’s relentless rain, of course, coupled with loneliness, stubbornness and depression. A fight over the family farm. Superstitions and spectral voices, underscored by the lilt of flute, fiddle and brogue.
Sure and begorrah, playwright John Patrick Shanley has written a valentine to his ancestral homeland, in “Outside Mullingar.” He’s even used the actual names of his relatives, to tell a tender and bittersweet love story that unfolds in a tiny rural town 1½ hours west of Dublin – and a world apart.
These tough, rugged Irish folks are shaped and hardened by the weather and working the land. Anthony is a bit “mad,” it’s said. Certainly, his crusty old father thinks so. Which makes him unsure about whether or not he’s going to leave the farm to Anthony.
On the land adjoining the Reillys’ are the Muldoons. Indomitable Rosemary has just lost her father. Her mother and Anthony’s dad go humorously head to head. And then there’s Rosemary and Anthony, dancing around each other and their feelings for decades.
Watching the inevitable union gradually edge closer to reality is a pleasure and a joy, thanks to the wonderful San Diego Rep production, nimbly and thoughtfully directed by Todd Salovey.
An Irish music trio comes out before the show begins – offering a bit of a singalong, to get us in the mood. But the superlative cast does that just fine. Real-life husband and wife Mike Genovese and Ellen Crawford are a delight, with their teasing broguish banter. Manny Fernandes is heart-breaking, as the literal-minded but deeply sensitive Anthony. And Carla Harting is a wonder – a bundle of nervous energy and repressed desire, slowly inching closer to Anthony. It’s a lovely, poignant coming-together.
The 90-minute play is simple but heartfelt, and the design serves the production extremely well, with evocative set, lighting, costumes, sound and projections.
“Outside Mullingar” is an ideal Valentine’s date. But, tapping into the buried ache in all of us, it’s a great, green outing for any night.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews