People clapped before Outside Mullingar started when Theatre Baddeck’s co-artistic producer Hannah Ziss proclaimed, ”Welcome to our first live production in two years!”
John Patrick Shanley’s 2014 play, which got a standing ovation at show’s end, is an Irish comedy about two singular people trying to find their way to love in spite of longstanding family feuds.
This production, originally scheduled for 2020, is a partnership between Theatre Baddeck and Ontario’s Lost & Found Theatre, which staged the play with the current cast and director in 2019.
As directed by Douglas Beattie (director of brother Rod in the Wingfield series), Outside Mullingar races along particularly in a first act full of crackling, revelatory speech..
Award-winning American playwright John Patrick Shanley (Doubt: A Parable) wrote this poetic ode to land and love when he was 60 and cast his mind back to his family’s farm in Midlands Ireland.
Aoife Muldoon, her daughter Rosemary, neighbour Tony Reilly and his son Anthony are superstitious and suspicious folk. They have a love/hate relationship with farming, Ireland and each other. These are outspoken tea drinkers who like dredging up old wounds and needling one another.
All the histories and complexities in this tangle, including good jokes at Ireland’s expense, are beautifully unravelled over two hours of laughter with some intense, poignant moments and highly convincing performances.
Kathleen Sheehy sizzles as Aoife Muldoon, the feisty, plain-talking, grieving widow who takes on her longtime neighbour Tony Reilly in his own kitchen after her husband’s funeral. Vince Carlin beautifully incarnates this cagey, confident, unyielding old codger.
What the two parents don’t know is that their children, the cold and angry Rosemary, and the socially detached, poetic, perhaps “half-cracked” Anthony have long harboured feelings for one another.
Anthony is sympathetically and comically portrayed by Michael Peng with great physicality and nervousness. Christy MacRae-Ziss, who co-founded Theatre Baddeck with her daughter Hannah, blazes as Rosemary exposing all her rough edges and inner pain. Anthony runs from himself as Rosemary tries to run towards him.
Director Beattie often keeps his actors’ faces turned to the audience so people can linger on changing facial expressions, particularly eyes, registering shock, intense thought or wonder. (If you’ve seen the Wingfield shows you’ll recognize this technique.)
Nova Scotia set designer Garrett Barker’s two-kitchen set is wonderfully suggestive of a time gone by with chrome tables with formica surfaces and plain wooden chairs. The walls of Tony’s kitchen are stained in grime, those of Rosemary’s crisp and clean. Lighting designer Kristen Watt suggests rain and highlights a poignant, poetic exchange between father and son.
Outside Mullingar is great summer theatre, not too fluffy nor too steeped in darkness. It lies between Norm Foster and the Beauty Queen of Leeane.
All four professional actors hold the audience on a small stage at the Masonic Hall at 24 Queen St., in downtown Baddeck. Outside Mullingar is winding up its run; it is on stage tonight and Friday, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, 3:30 and 8 p.m. Next up is the romantic comedy Where You Are, by Kristen Da Silva, Sept. 2 (preview) to Sept. 25. Tickets are available at www.theatrebaddeck.com or by calling 902-412-7122 or at the door an hour before showtime.