Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers touching story

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

Oct. 4, 2018

 Deborah Staples as Rosemary talks with Carrie Hitchcock as Aoife while
James Pickering as Tony looks on in 'Outside Mullingar.'

 Ross Zentner

MILWAUKEE - There is some danger in stereotyping, but there is also some truth in these generalizations usually based on ethnicity, religion, economic status or career. 

Having seen two Irish plays in one week - both wonderful - I noticed there are certain elements often present in Irish literature - sentiment, melancholy, humor, simplicity, poignancy and a firm connection to tradition and the land.

'Outside Mulligar' is a touching story that takes place over a span of six years. The set that was so fittingly created by Rick Rasmussen reflects a father-son family who are just making ends meet, with the unappreciated son, Anthony, doing most of the demanding farm work and the father, Tony, doing most of the complaining. The home is simple and messy and devoid of any artistic touches, almost primitive-looking.

The atmosphere is tense and contentious. Enter a chatty neighbor, Aoife, who struggles to get around but is friendly and a sort of respite for Tony who has too little to fill his days but to bring up old grudges about the late husband of Aoife and about the Kelly clan, his deceased wife's side of the family, whom his son Anthony unfortunately physically favors, a fact that Tony unfairly resents.

Aiofe's feisty daughter Rosemary is the fourth member of the ensemble. When we first meet her, she immediately gives off a vibe of 'don't mess with me.' Anthony, who is shy and soft-spoken, is somewhat intimated by her confidence and bold manner. They have known each since childhood, but apparently never made a good connection.

As both Aiofe and Tony discuss their limited time left on this earth, Aiofe mentions that she is leaving her farm to her daughter Rosemary, and Tony surprisingly reveals that he is thinking of willing his to a nephew  who lives in America, rather than to his own son.

Upon hearing this disturbing news from her mother, Rosemary confronts Tony about this outrage. He is somewhat intimidated by her, and even though he doesn't concede to her, it does get him thinking.

The four actors creating these very interesting characters are some of the best in the rich pool of performers in our local scene. James Pickering (Tony), David Cecsarini (Anthony), Carrie Hitchcock (Aoife), and Deborah Staples (Rosemary) all fully embrace their roles and help us understand and empathize with the personalities and individual dilemmas of each character.

Some of the best scenes in the story are the last interaction between Tony and his son and the final scene in the play when Rosemary confronts Anthony as he wanders about his land with some sort of metal detector looking for some lost treasure. In a wonderful bit of irony, we discover eventually what he was really looking for.

Her power and his resistance play well against each other in this final confrontation. Who will win out?

The poetic script by John Patrick Shanley provides a great vehicle for the story-telling ability of these four actors. Thank God he forsook his usual emphasis on the Italians he grew up with in the Bronx (which inspired his screenplay for the award-winning 'Moonstruck') and focused on his own Irish heritage.

He certainly has a gift for it, and director Edward Morgan captured the poignant beauty of his work.


"Outside Mullingar"

The drama runs through Oct. 21 at the Next Act Theatre at 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee.
Call 414-078-0765 or visit