Play Review: ‘Mullingar’ Is Heartwarming

By J.E.Ballantyne Jr.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – So, where is Mullingar? Mullingar is in Ireland, but for the next two weekends it is at the Youngstown Playhouse. Now Rosemary lives “Outside Mullingar,” in a farming area next door to Anthony. That is the basis of this four character play by John Patrick Shanley.

Rosemary has been smitten with Anthony from a very early age. Now, some 30 years later, Anthony remains clueless to this affection. Although he dislikes farming, he struggles day after day to keep his father’s farm going all the while thinking that Rosemary hates him.

Chuck Kettering turns in a very strong performance as Anthony. Taking care of his elderly father as well as running the farm has taken a toll on Anthony through the years. Add to this a failed romantic relationship and Anthony is living a life of boredom and semi hopelessness.

Even though Anthony seems to be living a loser’s lifestyle, Kettering is a winner in every respect in this role. His energy is contagious from his first appearance as he rushes in from the cold outside. His opening scene with his father, Tony, is ripe with quick repartee and one-liners that set the stage quickly for what is to come. Kettering’s Anthony is a complex man and the actor brings out many nuances in the character which are built upon later.

Tony, Anthony’s father, is given the royal treatment by Samuel Perry. Perry has been one of the finest character men at the Playhouse for some time – he adds to that distinction in this role. Tony has lived a long life on the farm and is not able to tend it as he used to. But more has waned than his physical abilities. He is very set in his ways and has strong opinions about many things. One of those is that when he dies, the farm will go to a nephew rather than to son Anthony.

Perry gives Tony a crusty portrayal of a man who has had a long and hard life. He has lost his wife and is resigned to his departure in the very near future. Perry conveys Tony’s opinionated observations and gruff demeanor with gusto. Perry handles Tony’s constant obsession over a tract of land between his farm and Rosemary’s with just the right technique to keep the audience wanting more.

The audience gets a hint that there may be a soft side somewhere but Perry deftly veils that over until the right time. Perry’s versatility comes to light in Act II in a heartwarming scene with Anthony that might bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted person in attendance.

Rosemary, played by Joanna Andrei, is a ray of sunshine in this play. Her first appearance comes after the audience’s attentions have been bantered around the stage from character to character. Andrei slows everything down to let the audience catch their collective breath.

Rosemary is perhaps the least burdened character in the piece – at least in the beginning. She seems self assured and steady. Andrei handles the character well so as not to present too much to the audience too soon. Her development from her first scene to the last is a real full circle journey. There are many layers to Rosemary and Andrei feels her way through each one with precision.

Molly Galano, a solid character actress at the Playhouse, plays Aoife. Aoife, Rosemary’s mother, has as pessimistic an attitude as you could imagine. Recently losing her husband, she visits Tony and Anthony but refuses to drink from one of their glasses for personal distaste.

Galano is sensational as the aged cane-toting dark cloud that casts dispersions on everything and everybody. Galano is right at home with this character, She is quick, she is sharp, and she is certainly memorable in what is the smallest role of the four characters. But Galano handles the various levels of the character to make Aoife a truly likeable character.

All of the characters in “Outside Mullingar” are real people. These are characters excellently drawn by playwright Shanley. Undoubtedly, many in the audience will be able to liken them to people they know. They are human and they are real with a cast of actors that brings them to vivid life.

Many times when an accent is used in a show it can hinder the dialogue. Not so with the Irish dialect used in “Mullingar,” The cast executes it with precision. Not only is it clear and understandable but also realistic.
Director Christopher Fidram has chosen his cast well and directed them with diligence and incredible detail. His placement of characters and his movement of them around the stage underscores the laughter and drama being played out. And there is plenty of laughter in this show. But it is also nicely balanced with very sweet, tender moments that the audience can warm up to.

Lighting by Ellen Licitra adds dimension and color along with a very creative rain scene. Set design by Johnny Pecano is well thought out and gives a sort of rustic farmhouse look for both farm houses. Pecano also provided sound design which is understated but realistic.

“Outside Mullingar” is a must-see production. It is a little known gem that almost no one has ever seen. But once you see it, it will stick in your mind for a long time. There is somethin’ magical in this show. Whether it be the Irish brogue, I dunno. But it will tweek your heart and give ya good feelin’. You leave the theater and take these characters home with you.

“Outside Mullingar” will continue Feb. 25, Mar. 3, 4 at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26, Mar. 5 at 2:30 p.m.

Pictured at top: Joanna Andrei and Chuck Kettering in a scene from “Outside Mullingar.”

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