An Irish love story in need of an Strong character
By Iride Aparicio
Photos by: Kevin Berne
L-R STEVE BRADY, ROD BROGAN and LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—THEATRE WORKS Silicon Valley, opened its 47th Season with the Regional Premier, of “OUTSIDE MULLIGAR” a romantic comedy written by American Playwright JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY loosely based on his impression of the members of his Irish family.
On the stage stands the unpretentious house of the Reilly’s sheep and cattle farm. Small, with a single door and window adjacent to a shed with a broad wooden door framed by farming tools hanging from the wall protected by an awning. The revolving set created by Scenic Designer ANDREA BECHERT, transport us, visually, to Ireland for the night.
Outside, greyish clouds darken the sky. In the background, we can hear the sounds of rain and thunders (CLIFF CARUTHERS sound Designer ) and see flashes of lighting (STEVEN B.MANNSHARDT light) The program indicates that the farm is located outside of Killucan, Ireland (A place minutes for Mulligar) and that the action takes place between the years 2008-2013.
The house interior is a combination of a living room- kitchen- artistically furnished. At curtain, Tony Reilly (STEVE BRADY) an elderly man is reprimanding Anthony (ROD BROGAN), his 43 years old son, for suggesting to Aoife Muldoon (LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE) and her daughter Rosemary (JESSICA WORTHAM) their neighbors, to stop to visit after the funeral, because their house looks dirty. He then belittles his son (BROGAN) by calling him “a half woman,” and ordering him to put an apron and do the dishes.
During their conversation, Tony reminds his son that he is not a Reilly like him, his Irish father, but a Kelly, like his Irish mother. He adds that something is wrong with Anthony’s eyes and the way they are set on his face, that their color is not right and that he may have come out from “another people” maybe a Limerick . After a long conversation he adds: “You are not a farming man. You don’t love it, there is no joy in you.” And then that the farm is not for him to stand on the ground. “You never stood in the ground like a king.” He tells him.
Aoife (HITCHCOCK CONE) arrives to the Reilly’s home alone and when Anthony asks her where is her daughter Rosemary (WORTHAM) she tells him that Rosemary is outside in the rain, standing under the awning, smoking a cigarette. Aoife’s conversation with Tony (BRADY) is natural. Because both are old, they talk about their poor health. Aoife tells him the reason why Rosemary has disliked Anthony since she was six years old and why the Reilly’s lost their “right of way” and now have to open two gates to access to the street. At the end, he asks Tony what would happen to their farm if he dies, and is surprised when he informs her that he does not intend to leave the farm to Anthony, the son who has worked in the farm with him all his life, but wants to sell it to his nephew who lives in America.
Anthony says nothing but apparently upset, goes out to talk to Rosemary.
During their conversation, we learn that when she is out of cigarettes, Rosemary smokes a pipe, to calm her nerves, as Anthony (BROGAN pictured left) reveals to her that he hates the farm. That he hears a voice that says “go” and that to him the farm is like a prison but he feel he has to stay because his life is fixed “with a rock en each corner.” That he works all day and half the night, and feels he is a nobody. In this scene we also learn about Fiona, the woman who changed completely Anthony’s life.
The following scene (scene 4) is the most moving and the most realistic. Circumstances brings father and son together for the first time. Tony now realizes that Anthony is a good son, and a hard worker. The dialogue is poetic.
The long play (without intermission) could have ended with that scene ,because the second part feels like we are watching a different play and the action takes place five years later.
While the first part was funny and the dialogue crisp and true to life, the dialogue in the second part give us the impression that it was written to fill the pages of the drama, because much of it is about subjects that serve no definite purpose because they do not move the action of the play.
If this play is a love story, the “love” needs to be developed so the audience can understand why these two characters, who has no chemistry with each other, could have loved each other for each other for so long. We have been told the reason why the Reillys lost their right of way in their property and the silly reason why Rosemary continues holding a grudge against Anthony, so it is hard for the audience to understand how years of hatred can be solved so easily by a ring.
It does not help either that on their first conversation in three years the couple do not talk about each other, but about unrelated subjects: a bus accident in which a few boys died, the people in Ireland who out of despair are jumping from buildings, and Anthony’s added comment, “I should jump myself.” Does not exactly reveals love.
The other problem in the dialogue of the play, is that audience does not find “romantic” to learn that "the heroine of th drama" is a woman who depends on nicotine to calm her nerves, is suicidal and thinks often of killing herself, and her mother describes as crazy The girl that Anthony describes as “somebody who sees disaster where are green fields.”
Harder for us to believe is that Anthony loves her, when living next to her he has not visited her for three years and when he finally does, he suggests she marries somebody else, and tells her that being in her house makes him feel “like being nailed in a crate.” ?
JESSICA WORTHAM as Rosemary and ROD BROGAN as Anthony
Directed by Theatre Works Artistic Director ROBERT KELLEY, the acting of the four actors is superb.
As Tony Reilly, BRADY impersonates the character with realism. We may not like his constant degrading of his son, but the actor makes it “look natural.” He also shows us at the end, that in spite of their constant bickering, they deeply love each other as father and son.
LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE as Aoile Muldoom, does not require drama role, but she represented naturalistically. She sounded convincingly as she told Tony about her emphysema, about old age, and like any older mother, she worried about her single daughter Rosemary and their farm after she dies.
The stronger dramatic role in the play was played by Rosemary, and WORTHAM who debuted as a lead actress in THEATRE WORKS where she had previously played other roles, went well through each one of Rosemary’s emotions. We saw her flirting when Anthony calls her pretty, we saw her looking depressed, even suicidal when she reveals that she has a gun, and she showed us her determination. She had always wanted something, and she got it at the end.
Rosemary JESSICA WORTHAM and Anthony ROD BROGAN Anthony
And playing the role of Anthony, ROD BROGRAN probably had the most difficult part in this drama because his character is weak, has no initiative, and lacks motivation. BROGAN lived the role. His Anthony was submissive, even looked submissive, indecisive, and so pathetic that suggest to the girl he loves to marry somebody else.
While “OUTSIDE MULLINGAR” has good dialogue, interesting characters, great acting and wonderful direction, the play lacks focus. To be a love story, it also needs to show the audience different stages of love, between the characters. in the action. And the story definitely needs a stronger lead. Our hero (Anthony) is too passive, has no goals, does not really know what he wants in life and thinks of himself as “a nobody” To the female audience it is very difficult to understand why any woman, in her right mind, would want to marry a man who thinks himself a bee. It made us wonder if Fiona, did not do the right thing.
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR will continue playing at the MOUNTAIN VIEW CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, until October 30. For tickets go to you can go online to www.theatreworks.org or order by phone by calling: 650-463-l960