Categories: Entertainment

Outside Mullingar – an Irish love story unlike any other

Anthony (Garett Ross) and Rosemary (Jenny McKillop) go at it in playwright John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar opening at Varscona Theatre on Wednesday, March 7.

Outside Mullingar
Shadow Theatre production
March 7 to 25
At Varscona Theatre
10329 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $22 To $37 and Tuesdays 2 for 1. Call 780-434-5564

Spring, the traditional mating season for all creatures, is just around the corner. But from every account, Shadow Theatre’s newest courtship comedy follows anything but the traditional route.

Written by renowned Irish-American poet-playwright John Patrick Shanley (Doubt: A Parable), Outside Mullingar shines a light on his ancestral homeland.

For 40-odd years, Shanley refused to own his heritage and be labelled an Irish-American writer. The Bronx-raised playwright wanted to write for everyone. Subsequently, his plays and films were released with titles such as Italian American Reconciliation, Moonstruck and Dirty Story.

But in 1993 when Shanley’s aging father asked his son to travel with him to Ireland, the playwright agreed. Upon returning to his cousin’s farm, all family feelings broke through Shanley’s self-imposed dam, and he awoke to the beauty of his people.

Outside Mullingar, playing at the Varscona Theatre from March 7 to 25, is Shanley’s valentine to his heritage.

Director John Hudson first saw Outside Mullingar at Rosebud Theatre several years ago and enjoyed Shanley’s delivery.

“He’s a very concise writer. He really gets to the point. The language is lyrical and beautiful. I looked at the plot and it’s fantastic,” said Hudson.

In typical Irish fashion, the play begins right after a funeral. But the story actually starts 30-some years earlier when 12-year-old Anthony pushes six-year-old Rosemary to the ground.

Anthony (Garett Ross) has forgotten the incident. Rosemary (Jenny McKillop) has not. And it is this skirmish that sets the stage for a friction-filled, decades-old romance.

They live next door to each other in rural Ireland. Anthony is painfully shy and deep romantic  conversations with Rosemary are severely limited. Adding fuel to the fire is a simmering land feud between the two families.

Shanley further sets the stage for fireworks through the widow Aoife (Coralie Cairns), Rosemary’s mother, and Tony (Glenn Nelson), Anthony’s crafty father.

Hudson speaks volumes about the four actors’ stage chemistry.

“Jenny is made for the role of Rosemary. She fits it like a glove. She has steadfastness and she’s rooted. With this character, Jenny plays a grown woman, someone who knows what she wants.”

Ross, who is also McKillop’s life partner, is the perfect foil for Rosemary.

“Garett is so experienced and skilful. He really puts up blocks in the relationship. In one scene she’s going at him and he has to react. It’s difficult for an actor to do, and because Garett is so skilled, he handles it well.”

Hudson says Cairns, as the widowed mother, is grieving yet is full of pointed asides, whereas Nelson’s boisterous Tony is hilarious and fun to watch.

McKillop adds, “This is a wonderful romantic comedy about love and anyone can identify with it. It’s a wonderful, feel-good play.”

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.