From reading John Patrick Shanley’s Introduction to his play, in which he recounts his initial impressions from his first visit to Ireland in 1993, one would think his relatives and, indeed, all Irish mad. Gradually, though, Shanley was able to find a comfortable perspective from which to cajole enough recollections from his people to be able to ask himself “… how such wonderful eccentric folk as I saw around me were able to spring from such impoverished ground.” By this, Shanley was not referring only to the hardscrabble life, but specifically to his grandparents, who lived a volatile and unhappy life.
In Outside Mullingar, Shanley (Doubt, Moonstruck, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and Joe vs. the Volcano) answers his own query with a delightful story full of hope and humor.
In the aftermath of Chris Muldoon’s burial, his widow, Aoife (Billie McBride), and her daughter, Rosemary (Emily Paton Davies), join their neighbors, Tony Reilly (Chris Kendall) and his son, Anthony (Timothy McCracken), for some talk and libations.
The combination of Shanley’s witty dialogue and storytelling, the consistent work of the ensemble with the light Mullingar dialect (kudos to Gabriella Cavallero for her research and coaching), the refined intensity of the performances (directed with an expert hand by Rebecca Remaly), and Ron Mueller’s seamless set, make for a wonderful 90 minutes filled with catharses for characters and audience alike.