A Lovely, Lyrical and Subtly Sexy Tango in “Outside Mullingar”
By Skip Sheffield
Lovely and lyrical is what “Outside Mullingar” is. Wryly funny too is this John Patrick Shanley play being presented through April 24 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself speaking with a slight Irish brogue with a Gaelic lilt after experiencing this tale of reluctant love by an Irish-American playwright who only later in life embraced his ancestral roots.
John Patrick Shanley was born and raised in The Bronx and went to Catholic schools. His experience is reflected in his most famous play, “Doubt,” which won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize as Best Play. “Outside Mullingar” is a much smaller play with only four characters, set in rural Ireland.
We first meet the older generation. There is a nasty storm with lightning and Tony Reilly (Alex Wipf) and Aoife Muldoon (Patricia Kilgarriff) touch on the topic of death. Tony’s son Anthony (Nick Hetherington) enters, and reference is made to Aoife’s daughter Rosemary (Kathy McCafferty), who is offstage smoking. It seems Anthony pushed Rosemary down when he was seven and she just six. Though next-door neighbors, they have been estranged ever since.
This is too bad for Anthony, because Rosemary owns rights to the land that links Anthony’s ancestral farm to the highway. Anthony has to go through two gates to get from the highway to his family farm, where he has been “breaking my back since I was five.”
Director J. Barry Lewis has moved the action briskly in seven scenes with no intermission. The speed is aided by the fact the sets are on a turntable, changing Tony’s cluttered kitchen to the outdoors, where Rosemary is smoking a pipe, and thence to Rosemary’s more orderly kitchen.
It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to realize Anthony and Rosemary are destined to be together. What makes this Irish yarn so appealing is the convincing way Nick Hetherington and Kathy McCafferty dance this subtle, sexy tango. McCafferty seems an Irish lass through and through. Hetherington is equally believable as a stubborn man facing the inevitable. This is what you might call a “feel-good play,” with a distinctly Irish accent.
Tickets are $64. Call 561-514-4042 or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.