THEATER REVIEW: “Outside Mullingar” @ theREP, 9/27/16

(l-4) David Kenner, Kenneth Kimmins and Laurie O'Brien
(l-4) David Kenner, Kenneth Kimmins and Laurie O’Brien

Review by Greg Haymes

On the face of it, “Outside Mullingar” is a play about a small stretch of land (with two gates) that separates the Emerald Isle land between two adjoining families.

But it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the small patch of Irish turf is a metaphor for the vast gulf that exists between the two middle-aged neighbors, both of whom are unable or unwilling to declare their love for each other.

In short, it’s a pretty predictable, cut-and-dried romantic comedy.

Fortunately, it was written by John Patrick Shanley, who has a rather mighty command of the pen, having earned the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for “Doubt,” as well as an Academy Award for “Moonstruck.” And at theREP in Albany, it was deftly directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, who gave it meaning, motion and momentum on the stage.

In the scheme of things, “Outside Mullingar” is clearly much more “Moonstruck” than “Doubt,” but Shanley’s undeniably lyrical writing lifts it above the standard rom-com level of cute. So when the [spoiler alert?] ultimate clinch garnered a spontaneous round of applause from the nearly sold-out crowd on opening night, it certainly wasn’t a surprise. But it wasn’t undeserved, either.

The performances were uniformly impressive throughout, with Kenneth Kimmins and Laurie O’Brien carrying the first act, while the next generation – David Kenner and the particularly impressive Kim Stauffer – went toe-to-toe in the second act.

“Outside Mullingar” is not a laugh-filled chuckle-fest. In fact, it’s a rather dramatic bit of rom-com, and it may invoke some tears. It is, however, a fairly honest bit of drama/comedy that describes just how far apart we are on the human spectrum. And how satisfying – to both parties – it might be if we had the courage to step over the line and take a chance on love – however painful it might be.

WHAT: “Outside Mullingar”
WHERE: theREP, Albany
WHEN: Through Sunday, October 16
HOW MUCH: $20-$55

Excerpt from Steve Barnes’ review at The Times Union: “Their final scenes, which, as these stories go, almost by definition will require clambering over emotional terrain of hills and brambles, become increasingly funny and touching. Beautifully acted by Kenner and Stauffer, the scenes, as shaped by director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill and performed on a deceptively simple and effective set by Ken Goldstein, have moments of exquisite regret, abundant humor and, finally, sunny optimism.”

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