Family Bonds Prevail in Mullingar
by Shirley Lorraine
The Irish countryside provides a lush and laid-back setting for this play about family ties, love, persistence and obligation in Outside Mullingar now on the main stage at Santa Paula Theater Center.
Oscar, Pulitzer and Tony award winning author John Patrick Stanley of Doubt and Moonstruck fame penned this charming and introspective work full of wisdom and true-to-life situations. He has created characters who plow through many of life’s little regrets to find the fertile soil that remains, proving that it is never too late to bare your soul and bury any hatchets that may hinder the next generation. They cover misgivings, misunderstandings and even love with blame, blather and blarney, resulting in sharp repartee delivered with a twinkle of the eye.
At the stories’ center are Anthony (Ron Feltner) and Rosemary (Jessie May Stevenson), neighbors since children, who are reluctant to recognize their mutual long-standing attraction. Anthony’s father, Tony (Cecil Sutton), and Rosemary’s mother, Aoife (Rosalee Calvillo) fuel a long-standing feud through wry wit and Irish wiles.
The four seasoned actors, under the expert guiding hand of SPTC Artistic Director David Ralphe are relatable and authentic. Sutton and Calvillo as the two elders, play off each other with the practiced ease of old friends. Feltner and Stevenson, a couple in real life, deliver strong and determined characterizations as the offspring left to cope with myriad issues stemming from the past. Ultimately time erases the years gone by as a new beginning is forged. While actions and reactions between Feltner and Stevenson are particularly mesmerizing, the performances and portrayals from all are riveting.
The Irish accents vary ever so slightly and all the actors carry theirs well. Slowing the pace in the opening scenes may help the audience acclimate to the verbal rhythms so that clarity is maximized. In a few sections, additional volume would assist the audience in catching all the lyrical nuances in the poetic piece. The verbal lilt is so compelling and charming throughout that one might find themselves unconsciously searching for their own inner leprechaun on the way home.
Adding to the visual beauty are vintage appliances and set pieces such as an old country home may still use. The first act setting emphasizes the state the widower and the bachelor endure as they struggle to hold their farm together, while the second act reveals a Spartan but definite woman’s touch to the neighboring home. Subtle lighting changes and incidental music heighten the effects required, particularly in the quiet moments of reflection.
Outside Mullingar is a well presented and important piece of theater. Filled with truly human characters, the work offers glimpses of many people we may know in various stages of life. There is recognition in every situation, reminding us all that our struggles, inner and outer, are universal and timeless.
Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sundays 2:30 PM through May 28
Adults $24, Students and Seniors $22