THEATER REVIEW: "Outside Mullingar"

Some people never forget a slight. Others don’t know a come-on when they see it.

Playwright John Patrick Shanley takes his own very Irish family as a starting point for “Outside Mullingar,” a romantic comedy about two (fictionalized) feuding families.

Consider Anthony Reilly (Manny Fernandes), who grew up with his dad Tony (Mike Genovese) on the next farm over from Rosemary Muldoon (Carla Hartung) and her mother Aoife (pronounced EE-fah) in the hardscrabble though beautiful Irish countryside west of Dublin.

There’s bad blood between these families going back to when Rosemary was seven years old, and she hasn’t forgotten about it.

The 13-year-old Anthony pushed her to the ground, which resulted in the sale of a small piece of Reilly property that makes it necessary for the Reillys to go through two gates to get to their property.

Now they’re all grown up. Tony is not long for this world and is worried about what will happen to the farm once he goes (“There’s no marriage in the man,” he says despairingly of Anthony), while Rosemary (who has had designs on Anthony for years, though he’s never noticed) expects to take over her mother’s farm. Soon.

But before that, Genovese’s Tony and Crawford’s Aoife (who are married in real life) have some wonderful verbal encounters.

This is a rom-com, so there’s no real question about the way this play will end. But as in Shanley’s “Moonstruck,” the fun is in getting there, especially since this crackerjack cast gives all these portrayals such depth and wit and joy that you won’t even notice that you know what’s going to happen.

It turns out that Anthony isn’t really as dense as he seems; he has a secret that I’m dying to give away, but I’ll resist.

Suffice it to say that Fernandes is terrific in this rather strange part, which is very, well, Shanley. And he is lucky that Hartung’s competent Rosemary is as patient as she is.

“Outside Mullingar” was extended before the run began, and with good reason. It’s a delightful play, wonderfully performed and beautifully served by the artistic staff. Giulio Perrone sets the scene with his rustic set, aided by Sherrice Mojgani’s fine lighting and Anastasia Pautova’s costumes.

And three fine musicians – Jim Mooney, Alicia Previn and Richard Tibbits – provide fine occasional musical accompaniment with “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

The details

“Outside Mullingar” plays through February 21, 2016 at San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Space, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 544-1000 or sdrep.org