“Outside Mullingar” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 18, 2018


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Humorous but insightful, playwright John Patrick Shanley takes audiences to rural Irish farmlands in Arizona Theatre Company’s vivid “Outside Mullingar” where we meet two very different families who live on neighboring farms.  The journey Shanley creates provides a view of two divergent people, Anthony Reilly and Rosemary Muldoon, who have known each other all their lives but have struggled to admit their love.

Each has one parent left who push quietly but lovingly in the hope that the unspoken but longtime romance between the couple will win.  It is a fascinating journey loaded with Shanley’s keen wit and humorous one-liners but blessed with clearly drawn characters destined for each other once they adjust their beliefs to make the pairing work.  The parents help audiences understand where and how this romantic couple learned their rough beliefs and rigid lifestyles but also demonstrates how intelligent but needy people can make necessary adjustments to foster their relationship.

Couple Shanley’s masterful play, which parallels his brilliantly crafted earlier drama “Doubt,” with a remarkably acted and vibrantly staged production and “Outside Mullingar” is a must-see success.

The play marks two ATC firsts.  It is new artistic director David Ivers’ first staging assignment and his fascinating production never lags as the almost two hour, intermissionless play breezes by while cornering your rapt attention from the moment it begins.  Aiding Ivers stalwart production is a quartet of performers whom all mark their ATC debuts.  Ivers’ fine staging turns the ensemble into vibrant representatives of the small town’s residents.  Fine sets, gloomy lighting, and drab costumes further paint this bleak and dissolute locale lucidly.  “Outside Mullingar” is not a picture-pretty environment but a realistically harsh environment where the touching romance transpires between Anthony and Rosemary to create the play’s beauty.

Larry Bull is a hulky Anthony afraid to admit his love for the tender Cassandra Bissell’s softer but still opinionated Rosemary.  As Rosemary’s sternly protective mother, Aoife, Robynn Rodriguez rightly lacks the refinement and genteel affinities but she has her feet on the ground because she wants her daughter to share the love she had for her deceased husband.  Anthony’s father, Tony, is gruff and blustery but he cares for his son in John Hutton’s vivid portrait.

Theater lovers owe it to themselves to bask in the theatrical glory of ATC’s stunning “Outside Mullingar” which continues through March 4 at the Herberger Theater Center.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A