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Ireland Shines with Outside Mullingar
Fusion Theatre Company

Also see Wally's reviews of Nickel and Dimed and Picasso at the Lapine Agile


Sherri L. Edelen
Given that John Patrick Shanley is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Doubt, I was surprised by the romantic comedy vibe of Outside Mullingar, a richly emotional story set on an Irish farm. But then I remembered that Shanley also wrote the screenplay for the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romp Joe Versus the Volcano, and he won an original screenplay Academy Award for the charming rom-com Moonstruck. His talent ranges from the gloomy clouds of Doubt to the dizzy cheerfulness of Moonstruck.

You can place Outside Mullingar at the center of Shanley's spectrum. The plight of the characters is nearly gloomy, but they stumble into comedy and silver linings in spite of their clumsy tilt toward despair.

The play opens on the evening of the day Aoife (Nancy Jeris) has buried her husband. She herself is ill with emphysema and doesn't expect to live out the year. Aoife and her daughter Rosemary (Sherri L. Edelen) are visiting their neighbor Tony (Robert Benedetti) and his son Anthony (Thomas Adrian Simpson). The first act focuses on the conflicts of the older generation, while the second act shifts to the relationship between Rosemary and Anthony who grew up together and are both struggling to put the second half of their lives together.

All four actors are strong. Each of them comes with a full career's worth of impressive acting credentials—and it shows. We see a range of powerful emotion throughout the play. The actors manage well the dual chores of expressing deep resentments (so Irish) as well as delivering comic lines. Shanley may have an Irish background, but he was born and raised in the Bronx and displays an American buoyancy. Doubt, which is set in America, may have the darkness of a true Irish play, but Outside Mullingar, set in Ireland, has an easy American touch—and in this case, that's a virtue.

The play is very well directed by Jacqueline Reid, who regularly turns in strong directing—and often acting—at the Fusion. The pacing is clock perfect, a necessity in a play with comic lines. All the details are right, down to the jar of Marmite on the kitchen sink. The choice of music is superb, from the bumper music before each act to the use of "Wild Mountain Thyme" within the drama itself. All of the music is Irish, from the traditional "Marie's Wedding" to U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

This is a delightful play and a wonderful production in every detail. Outside Mullingar was up for a Tony just this year. It's great that Albuquerque theatergoers get to see major drama so quickly off its first New York run.

Outside Mullingar is produced by the Fusion Theatre Company. The play runs at the Cell Theatre, 700 1st. St. NW, on September 16, 17 and 18, 2014, at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $40, $35 for senior and students. The play moves to the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces on September 20 at 7:30 and September 21 at 2:00, with tickets at $25 and $35. The play returns to the Kimo Theatre in Albuquerque on Friday September 26 for a "pay what you wish" performance at 7:30. Then it's on to the Lensic Performance Arts Center in Santa Fe on Saturday September 27 at 7:30, with tickets at $10 to $40. For reservations, go to liveatthecell.com, or call 766-9412.


Photo: Courtesy of Fusion Theatre Company

--Rob Spiegel



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