Outside Mullingar – a softhearted comedy by SOAP Theatre

Outside Mullingar – a softhearted comedy by SOAP Theatre

Rosemary (Jenn MacNeil) and Anthony (Jeff Smith) talk over a Guinness in the kitchen. He’s intensely shy. (Tom Szalay photo)

Special to the Chronicle

SOAP Theatre’s spring production, Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley, is looking great for opening night, Friday, April 20.

Shanley has given us a great romantic comedy, reminiscent of his 1987 hit screenplay, Moonstruck, starring Nicolas Cage and Cher, which won three Oscars including best writing.

Outside Mullingar itself was nominated for a Best Play Tony award in its 2014 Broadway debut.

The story centres on two romantic misfits, Anthony Reilly (Jeff Smith) and Rosemary Muldoon (Jenn MacNeil), straddling 40, who grew up and still live on two adjacent farms in central Ireland.

Rosemary has had her heart set on Anthony alone since she was a child. Anthony, due to his intense shyness and awkward discomfort with romance, has yet to make his move, even though as we learn, he “suffered like Christ himself” whenever some other fella came by to try their luck with Rosemary.

Anthony lives alone with his father Tony (Jim Peltier), who is planning to disinherit his son. Tony worries that Anthony takes after his mother’s father, John Kelly, who was “half ghost and mad as the full moon,” and as such, will likely never marry.

The farm has been in the Reilly family for “well wide of 100 years,” so Tony keeps “a keen eye on tomorrow,” with other plans to carry on the family name; if only he can resolve the land feud simmering between the Reilly and Muldoon families.

Rosemary, whose father just died, now lives alone with her mother, Aoife (Margi Chantler), whose “lungs and heart are cooked. She’s not long for it.”

Aoife now only wants what’s best for Rosemary, and the two of them know of a foolproof plan to make sure Rosemary and Anthony remain on their two farms, side by side, where Rosemary is “to wait; though it be years.”

Years do pass. In Act 2, Rosemary and Anthony are both left alone on their respective farms, both still single and increasingly depressed.

Tired of waiting for Anthony, whom she accuses of being a lump, Rosemary eventually exposes her lovesick vulnerability, leaving Anthony awe-struck and helpless to her aggressive strength, though he is horrified by Rosemary “going on like a pirate.”

What’s wrong with this guy? There is Rosemary: beautiful, available, interested and right next door. He obviously feels deeply for her; yet nothing. Why? We really want these two to somehow find each other.

John Patrick Shanley has created a poetic and moving story, a tragedy really, touched by death, land feuds, wasted years and lost opportunities to tell each other what really matters. Yet, out of the angst, frustration and signs from heaven, shines great humour, love and joy, just like in real life.

“It has been an absolute joy and privilege to direct Outside Mullingar,” says Tom Szalay. “The cast and I all just love the script and its poetic intricacies, so each rehearsal has been an uplifting experience. We’re just so pumped to be staging this great story for you!”

Outside Mullingar plays five performances at the Frank Venables Theatre in Oliver: Friday and Saturday evenings from April 20 through April 28, plus a matinee on Sunday, April 22.

Reserved seating tickets are available online at www.venablestheatre.ca, at the ticket office (6100 Gala Street) or by phone (250-498-1626). Some tickets are also available at Your Dollar Store With More in Osoyoos and at Sundance Video in Oliver. Buy tickets early for best seat selection and for discounts off the regular, day-of-show prices.

For more background and show details, and to view pre-show dinner specials offered by Pappa’s Firehall Bistro, please visit SOAP Theatre’s website, www.soplayers.ca. Or, come early to enjoy our licensed lobby with Irish-themed bar selections for this event.

Outside Mullingar is also SOAP Theatre’s entry in the 2018 Okanagan Zone Theater Festival in Vernon. They play at the Powerhouse Theatre on Thursday evening, May 24.