John Patrick Shanley is a somewhat unusual writer; his academic record is rather sketchy. From the program:
“John Patrick Shanley is from the Bronx. He was thrown out of St. Helena’s kindergarten. He was banned from St. Anthony’s hot lunch program for life. He was expelled from Cardinal Spellman High School. He was placed on academic probation by New York University and instructed to appear before a tribunal if he wished to return. When asked why he had been treated this way by all these institutions, he burst into tears and said he had no idea.”
Or, one could say, the young Mr. Shanley was a typical Irish kid. Rebellious and misunderstood.
Despite his academic challenges, those who doubted Mr. Shanley’s literary credentials must now be enjoying heaping portions of crow at every meal. Shanley’s revenge is that he is living well as a writer of Irish tales, including Outside Mullingar. He has won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005 (for Doubt: A Parable), a Tony Award for Best Play (also for Doubt: A Parable), and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1988 (for Moonstruck). Not a bad résumé, considering he flunked kindergarten.
Shanley’s Outside Mullingar is a near perfect mix of love story, comedy and drama. “Near perfect” because the story takes an improbable twist at the end; one more revision to the last draft should have tweaked that twist. Even so, Outside Mullingar captures the human spirit of the rural Irish characters as they deal with lives that are limited to live just outside of a small Irish town (Mullingar).
Two gates. That’s what it takes Anthony (Timothy McCracken) to get from town to his farm property. Anthony’s aging father sold a small sliver of the farm to his neighbors (Aoife and her daughter Rosemary) for 200 pounds sterling. That sliver of land includes the only access to Anthony’s farm. He has to enter, stop at the gate to the lost sliver, drive though the gate, then stop again at the gate that is the entrance to his farm. It’s not just annoying. In bad weather (it rains a lot), it’s cold, wet, and aggravating.