By: Sandi Durell
Peek into the messy kitchen of the elderly cantankerous Tony (Peter Maloney) and his 42 year old stroppy, joyless son, Anthony (Brian F. O’Byrne) in the opening scene for a birds eye view of what’s going on in the lives of the Reillys. Add to that the recently widowed neighbor Aoife Muldoon (Dearbhla Molloy – – their farms abut) and her russet-haired non-stop smoking daughter Rosemary (Debra Messing – in a Broadway debut), and you’re peering into the confused and emotionally chaotic lives of the two families.
After winning a Tony and Pulitzer for “Doubt,” playwright John Patrick Shanley has turned 360 deg. offering up a warm-hearted dramedy, at the Manhattan Theatre Club, with underpinnings of right, wrong, love, romance and frustration as these four characters spew dialogue with crackling precision and unfiltered desperation.
The elder ornery, pontificating Tony loves his farm but knows that his caretaking son (whom he continuously criticizes) feels differently – he doesn’t “stand on the land and draw strength from it as I do.” And so father is making plans to sell the farm, prior to his death, to a nephew who lives in America who is also interested in finding an Irish bride.
Ah, but, there’s a glich (in more ways than one) as there’s a 40 meter strip of land that Tony sold years before to his neighbor Muldoon that divides the two farms.
Aoife and Rosemary are sizzling hot as they pragmatically fire off at Tony eventually winning the battle, as he moves closer to meeting his maker, to leave the farm to Anthony. The touching scene of a dying, remorseful Tony embracing his son marks a turning point and punctuates their many years of feuding.
As the scenes change, marking the passage of time, the quirky Anthony, always longing to be free, is meandering on his land in the pouring rain, with a metal detector, when the red-headed beauty (now living alone on her farm after Aoife has passed on) persuades Anthony to come in out of the rain.
It must be obvious at this point that the free spirited Rosemary – antagonistic and depressed all these years – has been waiting for the still virgin Anthony to make a move. It is this scene that captures O’Bryne’s and Messing’s choked up years of painful emotions that are finally released. “I’m cracked . . . mad,” says he. “I’m mad too,” says she. Need I say more!
In the hands of director Doug Hughes (who directed “Doubt”), this superb cast ebbs and flows in lyrical synchronicity. The turntable settings by John Lee Beatty are detailed accompanied by Mark McCullough’s lighting and Catherine Zuber’s costuming.
*Photos: Joan Marcus
“Outside Mullingar,” through March 16 at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th Street – Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.
https://www.theaterpizzazz.com/6-questions-john-patrick-shanley/ (interview by Sherry Amatenstein with John Patrick Shanley)