‘Out­side Mullingar’: Re­flect­ing on life and love, Ir­ish style

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - STAGE - By Linda Tuc­cio-Koonz lkoonz@new­stimes.com; Twit­ter: @Lin­daTKoonz

Who am I? What’s the pur­pose of my life? “Out­side Mullingar” ex­plores such ques­tions, but it’s not the heavy play you might think. From Pulitzer Prizewin­ner John Pa­trick Shan­ley, this tale of two farm­ing fam­i­lies in Ire­land is heaped with hu­mor and heart.

Ten­sions be­tween the gen­er­a­tions and a pos­si­ble ro­mance pro­vide the drama in this show, which will be pre­sented by Clay & Wat­tles Theater Com­pany at The Gary The Olivia Theater in Beth­le­hem Fri­day, June 15, through Sun­day, June 24.

The roofed, open-air theater on the bu­colic grounds of The Abbey of Regina Laudis is the per­fect set­ting for this pro­duc­tion, said direc­tor Thomas Camm,

who also is in the show.

“The two fam­i­lies are the Mul­doons and the Reillys; they live side by side (on neigh­bor­ing farms). Christo­pher Mul­doon has just passed away and they’re com­ing from his fu­neral as the story opens. His wife, Aoife Mul­doon, has a daugh­ter, Rose­mary. That’s one fam­ily. The other fam­ily is Tony Reilly (played by Camm) and his son, An­thony.”

Camm said pub­li­cists nor­mally play up the po­ten­tial ro­mance be­tween An­thony and Rose­mary, both in their 30s. But in his mind, as the direc­tor, “Mullingar” is a look at four char­ac­ters ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis.

“Tony, the fa­ther, is re­ally con­cerned about the fu­ture — the con­ti­nu­ity of his farm. It’s to­ward the end of his life and that’s his fo­cal point. His re­la­tion­ship with his son hasn’t been the great­est. Tony lost his wife a num­ber of years ago and hasn’t been a par­tic­u­larly lov­ing fa­ther.”

Mean­while, his brother in Amer­ica has a son, Adam, and Tony is think­ing of sell­ing the farm to him, rather than pass­ing it to An­thony. Tony de­scribes Adam as some­one who “has hands like feet” and “is a Reilly through and through.”

Also wor­ried about the fu­ture is Aoife; not only is she newly wid­owed, but she still sees her daugh­ter as a child, not as the grown wo­man she’s be­come.

It turns out Rose­mary is in love with An­thony, and has been since she was a lit­tle girl, but “he doesn’t have a clue how she feels,” Camm said. An­thony is a sen­si­tive sort who isn’t good in so­cial sit­u­a­tions. He works hard but doesn’t find the joy in farm­ing that his dad did.

“He strug­gles with con­fi­dence and be­liev­ing in him­self . ... He’s not a door­mat by any stretch; he has a sense that he’s a good man, but no­body is sup­port­ing him in that.”

So how will it all pan out for these char­ac­ters? “Hu­mor eases the ten­sions of the strug­gles they go through,” Camm said, adding each one is de­light­ful and charm­ing in his or her own way, and the lan­guage is beau­ti­ful, po­etic and lyri­cal.

Camm said he be­lieves au­di­ences will def­i­nitely con­nect with this story. “We try to re­veal or il­lu­mi­nate some of the things that bind us to­gether as hu­man be­ings,” he said. “I think there’s a lot for peo­ple to take away from this.”

Bryan Ha­ef­fele / Clay & Wat­tles Theater Com­pany / Con­trib­uted photo

Cather­ine An­nulli, as Aoife Mul­doon, and Thomas Camm, as Tony Reilly, re­hearse for “Out­side Mullingar,” on stage Fri­day, June 15, through Sun­day, June 24, at The Gary The Olivia Theater in Beth­le­hem.

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