Review by Danny Gaisin
“It’s an awful business…Growing old!” When Vince Carlin makes this statement in John Shanley’s 2014 com/dram (sic) OUTSIDE MULLINGAR, it was way too close to home. Both the muse and I have just undergone a necessitated cognitive analysis. Our concentration veers; our memory has too many gaps; and worse of all – the short trip between brain and mouth often detours.
Interpreting Shanley’s play, the unique production team of ‘Act of Faith’ have brought back the ‘Painting Churches’ (see O.A.R. 4/28/’18) dynamic team of Caroline Saulez; Vince Carlin & Willard Boudreau. The latter, recovering from major surgery, is still in top directorial form with his minute (‘mine yoot’ not the 60-second noun) style of detailing.
Joining them are Richard Marchment & Kathleen Sheehy and the result is a theatrical treasure that is more than worthy; it’s memorable.
If one were in Liverpool and flew due west across the Irish Sea, Mullingar is in the middle of County Westmeath, almost smack-dab centre of the rural Emerald Isle. Shanley, like he did with his Oscar© winning ‘Moonstruck’, is able to depict more than just the stereotypes but rather the essence of his character’s psyches and ethnocentric baggage. In this effort, he brings together two neighbors, a widower ‘Tony Reilly’ and his son (Carlin & Marchment) and the recently widowed Sheehy as ‘Aoife Muldoon’ and her daughter whose ‘Rosemary’ is so entrancing that Caroline Saulez actually owns the show. Considering the dramatic qualities of her cohorts…no small feat.
The plot deals with two lines; inheritance of the Reilly farm, and the unrequited affection Rosemary has for the shy and retiring Anthony Reilly. A first-timer with Act of Faith, Marchment certainly can hold his own interacting with all three others on stage. His quarrelsome wrangling with Carlin that occupies most of Act I, will resound with everyone who has experienced a child/parent dichotomy…this scribe included. The line deliveries that Sheehy expresses to both of the Reilly men is done with aplomb and a perfect sense of humorous timing. She’s got the least stage time, but her contribution to the overall effect of the play, is incalculable.
Act II deals with the two offspring and their relationship. To describe their social communicating is rife with subtlety and undercurrent, but to go into more detail would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, it’s a battle of titanic proportions and Saulez wins not only as ‘Rosemary’, courtesy of the playwright’s script; but as a superlative actor.
The set, designed by director Boudreau, is reminiscent of Beattie’s ‘Wingfield’ franchise (which this scribe never found funny!) but creatively converts to both families’ country farmhouses. Even the scene where Carlin’s health is failing evokes a bedroom. Clever and imaginative.
There is some difficulty in comprehending the brogue all the characters manifest, but given the body language and facial expressions exhibited, the messages being verbalized come across. Both the muse and I sat mesmerized throughout the performance. Outside Mullingar is presently located at the Burlington Theatre Centre on New Street, until June 15th. Run, don’t walk to see it before Sunday!