Outside Mullingar

Outside Mullingar

By John Patrick Shanley | Directed by Lisa Warrington

Rating: 3/5

Outside Mullingar has too many faults to be more than average. The plot is classically Irish, with rain, farms, endless tea and family feuds in abundance. The First Act deals with death, family inheritance and lost love in an emotionally battering rollercoaster. Anthony Reilly is a hardworking farmer and the son of Tony, who owns the farm. After a neighbour passes on, his grieving widow and daughter are invited back to the Reillys’ place for a cup of tea. A verbal bomb is dropped when Tony announces that when he passes, he won’t be leaving the farm to Anthony, causing a rowdy quarrel between all parties. The Second Act deals solely with the relationship tribulations of Rosemary Muldoon (Lara MacGregor) and Anthony Reilly (Phil Vaughn), and it is truly a piece of theatrical beauty.

The most irritating flaw is that there is no consistency in the time that the play is supposed to be set in, which is confusing for the audience. At first, the piece seems set in the past, but “pizza boxes” are mentioned in the dialogue. People fetch coal and wood for a fire but then discuss the Olympics being on “telly”. In the First Act, the clothes seem older, with the women in skirts and shawls and the men in corduroys and shirts. Then in the Second Act, the men and women have modern clothes, but this Act is set only three years later. If it is a scripted attempt to show that the story is applicable in any era, then it would be better left unsaid.

The actors are professionals, and it shows, but they are let down by the play itself. The scenes are a little dragged out in the First Act but still seem to lack explanations for the audience. The Second Act is considerably better. Not only are the scenes punchier, the banter is better — and in Dunedin, that’s always a gift. Lara MacGregor’s performance in the Second Act is superb.

The set is a delightful, timeless kitchen in a quaint Irish farmhouse, and Irish folk tunes play softly in the background at frequent intervals during the play. It was the black Irish humour that kept me going through this play though; the witty one-liners boosted the otherwise flawed dialogue.
This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2015.
Posted 4:35pm Sunday 22nd February 2015 by Bridie Boyd.