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Theater Review: “Outside Mullingar”

Dagmar Fields (Aoife Muldoon), Stephen Schmitz (Anthony Reilly), Jim Chovick (Tony Reilly)
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

Anthony Reilly (Stephen Schmitz) and Rosemary Muldoon (Vanessa Dinning) have been next-door neighbors since birth. Anthony lives with his dad Tony (Jim Chovick) and Rosemary with mother Aoife (Dagmar Fields) on farms in the hardscrabble though beautiful Irish countryside near Dublin, where the white heather and wild thyme grow.

Today Rosemary’s father was buried. Tony says he won’t be far behind, and it’s time for the next generation to take over his farm.

Tony is readying himself for that day, but he’s annoyed that his son seems to take no joy in the land – not to mention, as he complains to Aoife, that “there’s no marriage in the man.”

Rosemary has waited all this time for Anthony to take notice of her in the way that might end up in a merger. But Anthony is either extremely shy or just plain slow.

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, playing through Feb. 18 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.

Tony claims to be seriously considering leaving the property to his nephew Adam. But Anthony wants the farm, even if his dad doesn’t think he’s up to it.

Then there’s the matter of a long-ago slight when Anthony was 13 and pushed Rosemary to the ground, resulting in the sale of a small piece of the Reilly property to the Muldoons (don’t ask), which makes it necessary for the Reillys to go through two gates to get to their property. Tony’s been trying to buy that piece back for years.

Since this is a rom-com, 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 fine cast gives these portrayals such wit and joy that you may not even notice that you know what’s going to happen.

Shmitz and Dinning are amusing and worthy adversaries until – well, until the inevitable happens. Likewise, the other generation is well and spunkily played by old pros Chovick and Fields.

Kudos to the design and tech teams that make this show work on the stage. Bob Shuttleworth’s is workable rather than fancy, as it should be, and fancy, but it’s workable. Renetta Lloyd’s  no-nonsense costumes are perfect as well.

Sound and lighting are well handled by Violet Ceja and Jennifer Edwards, respectively.

If you’re looking for a pleasant evening of theater, put “Outside Mullingar” on your to-do list.

The details

“Outside Mullingar” plays through Feb. 18, 2018 at Legler Benbough Theatre, 9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch (on the campus of Alliant International University) AND

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or www.scrippsranchtheatre.org