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