Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Outside Mullingar
Arizona Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of Kinky Boots


Larry Bull and Cassandra Bissell
Photo by Tim Fuller
It's hard to imagine that a thirty-year long debate between two Irish families over a piece of land that runs between their adjoining farms could be the catalyst that results in an incredibly intoxicating romantic comedy. But that's exactly what happens in John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which turns the bitter feud into a beautiful love story. The play was nominated for the Best Play Tony Award and the Phoenix premiere from Arizona Theatre Company features a sensational cast, resulting in a moving, rich and gorgeous production.

The less audiences know about the plot going in will allow for more surprises in Shanley's well-crafted and intricate script. The basic premise is that Anthony and his father Tony live on a farm next to the farm where Rosemary and her mother Aoife live. The action begins right after the funeral of Aoife's husband and Rosemary's father and is set over a three-year period. In this 105-minute one-act play, truths come out, passions are revealed, and there is much talk about how the love between spouses, parents and children, and next-door neighbors may have issues, but it can also blossom and grow while past feuds fester, secrets are revealed, and thorny issues are resolved.

Shanley won an Oscar for his screenplay for Moonstruck and was awarded both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize for his drama Doubt. While Outside Mullingar may not be as humorous or dramatic as those two works are, respectively, it features characters that are incredibly layered and situations that are full of authenticity, with dialogue that is not only filled with a beautiful realism but is also incredibly poetic and lyrical in nature.

This is David Ivers' first show directing at ATC since he took over as Artistic Director of the company last year, and the care, detail and attention he brings to the characters, dialogue and action in the play show that Arizona audiences are in very good hands.

The cast of four is simply marvelous. Larry Bull is excellent as the stoic, shy, soulful and quiet Anthony, while Cassandra Bissell is luminous as the stubborn but headstrong Rosemary. John Hutton is charming yet also crabby, cantankerous, and hilariously colorful as Tony, and Robynn Rodriguez's feisty, fiery portrayal of Aoife is just about as far from a grieving widow as you can get.

The script is infused with many arguments and confrontations, but also moments of pure tenderness (the scene between Anthony and Tony in the father's bedroom is incredibly moving) and all four actors deliver believable performances that do justice to the characters and Shanley's script. There is one moment toward the end of the play where Anthony reveals something about his past to Rosemary that comes out of left field. In less gifted hands than those of Ivers, Bull and Bissell it could be a disaster, but instead it is afforded the same amount of care and humor as the rest of the piece and becomes one of the most moving moments in the production.

Scott Davis' scenic design delivers two realistic and detailed farm house kitchens and a barn in the rain that are lit with a stunning amount of beauty by Xavier Pierce. Kish Finnegan's natural costumes help flesh out the rural life of the Irish characters.

John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar is full of harsh beauty, along with the reality of love, anger, loss, rejection and reconciliation. After their production of Man of La Mancha last month, which I said was one of the best of the company's shows I've witnessed, I'm happy to say that Arizona Theatre Company's Outside Mullingar is not only one of the best shows I've seen in the Valley but also one of the most memorable plays of the past decade.

Arizona Theatre Company's Outside Mullingar, through March 4th, 2018, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street, Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased at www.arizonatheatre.org or by calling 602-256–6995.

Director: David Ivers
Scenic Designer: Scott Davis
Costume Designer: Kish Finnegan
Lighting Designer: Xavier Pierce
Sound Designer: Brian Jerome Peterson
Dialect Coach: David Morden

Cast:
Tony Reilly: John Hutton*
Anthony Reilly: Larry Bull*
Aoife Muldoon: Robynn Rodriguez*
Rosemary Muldoon: Cassandra Bissell*

*Members of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States


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