Outside Mullingar Review - One of Northlight's Finest

Courtesy Michael Brasilow

"You never notice anything, Anthony! You're famous for what goes by ya," says Tony Reilly (William J. Norris) to son Anthony (Mark Montgomery). This is but one example of the contentious father/son interactions seting the stage for Outside Mullingar. A tale of love, longing, loyalty to family and finding your own way, John Patrick Shanley's vision of his Irish heritage comes brilliantly to life under BJ Jones' direction at Northlight Theatre. 

Aoife Muldoon (Annabel Armour) is the strong, plain-spoken widow, neither afraid of life nor death. Her husband has just died, and she is readying her daughter Rosemary (Kate Fry) for the inevitable, when her turn comes.

The play opens with Norris and Armour chatting over tea in the Irish country kitchen after Chris Muldoon's funeral, bringing to mind so many families in so many kitchens. They invite us right in, their masterful connection to their characters making us forget we're watching a play. 

42-year old Anthony can't ever measure up in Tony's eyes, though he has put his own dreams on hold to take care of the family farm. Tony even threatens to disinherit Anthony in favor of a distant American relation because Anthony doesn't "love the land" like Tony thinks he should

Courtesy Michael Brasilow

Rosemary Muldoon is a brash, sexy, pipe-smoking woman, who though she's had her share of lovers remains unmarried. When she and Anthony appear on stage together, it is plain to see why she's remained unattached. She is fiercely attracted to Anthony (and he to her), though long-simmering anger over a childhood slight keep her from admitting her feelings. Instead, she's quick to hide behind criticism, berating Anthony for letting Tony run the show and just being the "dummy in the window."  

Courtesy Michael Brasilow

We ache for Anthony, who is desperate to win his father's approval. The love he's seeking comes almost too late, as Tony is on his deathbed. "Can you forgive me, most of all for making light of your good heart?"

 

It is this good-heartedness that finally wins the day for Rosemary and Anthony. Though both are undeniably attracted to each other, they are both typically Irish, too proud to risk rejection by being the first to lay open their heart to the other. Rosemary, however, realizing that now is all you get, throws caution to the wind and begins to open herself up to Anthony. For every objection he throws her way, Rosemary has a ready answer, unwilling to accept anything but his love in return.

This performance is 90 minutes of pure joy, with a conclusion that only the most cynical among us won't find satisfying. Outside Mullingar runs through April 25 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For more information call the box office (847)673-6300.

 

 

 

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