The Grass is always Greener…in Ireland

Snowstorm Hercules brought some special snow deals for Broadway shows on Friday, January 3rd.  For $50, I enjoyed a fifth row seat to Manhattan Theatre Club’s opening preview performance of Outside Mullingar in the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, directed by Doug Hughes.  Small screen veteran Debra Messing headlined with Brian F. O’Byrne.

Outside Mullingar presents four actors, (Messing and O’Byrne accompanied by Peter Maloney and Dearbhla Molloy), in varied couplings.  The first pairing, O’Byrne and Maloney open the evening as lovingly gruff father-son duo.  They’ve just returned from a funeral for their neighboring mother/daughter pair’s father and husband.  Flighty and fierce, Messing and Molloy stomp through the rain for perfunctory mourning reflections consuming John Lee Beatty’s roving set of rustic, worn farmhouse kitchens and stable.

Reflections on death bring up familial discord and the bickering between Molloy’s Aoife and Maloney’s Tony discloses a secret of economic import.  The men don’t own the access/right of way to their own farm and to their consternation discover that Messing’s Rosemary cajoled her now dead father into buying it as revenge for a young Anthony’s pushing her into the grass.

Despite Rosemary’s simmering anger, she leveraged her ownership of the right of way to convince a manipulative Tony to leave his farm to his son, Anthony.  Rosemary and Anthony’s relationship dynamic remains stuck in an awkward teenage infatuated angst despite their middle-aged status.  Rosemary and Anthony share similarities of undying loyalty to their respective dying farms, talking of exotic travels they wish to take but never do.

I enjoy preview performances as you witness actors gamely finding their way, with Maloney calling for lines a few times, for example.  Messing tackled the Irish accent, holding on to it most of the time, her joy of performing overwhelming everything from smoking a pipe to forcing a Guinness on her neighbor.  O’Byrne reticently pushed through, driving his scenes but allowing the energy of the cast to flow around him.  Messing and O’Byrne’s characters unite in their cynical romanticism, cemented with Rosemary shouting, “in the name of Cinderella’s shoes!” at a waffling Anthony.

For the tiredly bitter and hopeful romantic, check it out.

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