Friday, February 5, 2016

Love story with a brogue: Sure and begorrah 'Mullingar' delivers at San Diego Rep


Manny Fernandes and Carla Harting square off and eventually admit their attraction in a winning play at San Diego Rep.
From left, Richard Tibbets, Jim Mooney and Alicia Previn set the tone
for "Outside Mullingar," a lyrical tale of family, loyalty, pride and love. 

The pastoral pull of Ireland's countryside comes inside with 
"Outside Mullingar," San Diego Rep's first-rate production. 

and courtesy San Diego Rep 

YOU SUSPECT you're in for a treat from the moment you enter the Lyceum Theatre in downtown San Diego's Horton Plaza.
A spirited trio cuts loose with an on-stage jig, and soon the audience is tapping its toes to jaunty violin, guitar and flute tunes. Only the Irish (or Irish at heart) can convey the joyous melancholy of Celtic music. Alicia Previn's lively fiddle and winning smile show she's having fun and set the mood for "Outside Mullingar," with Richard Tibbits on flute and Jim Mooney on guitar. The audience sings along with “Wild Rover” before the action begins, so we're involved from the start.
PLAYWRIGHT Patrick Shanley  knows small town Ireland -- he's born and bred there, and understands the petty and large-hearted nature of country folk.  He nails the Irish gift for candor, through self-deprecation, humor and snap judgment. Through Shanley's fine ear for the cadence of Irish speech, the engaging story unfolds.
The Lyceum in Horton Plaza is home to San Diego Repertory Theatre.

'Outside Mullingar' plays my native Montana, too!

WITH HALF of my lineage tracing to the Emerald Isle, I was mesmerized. I've hiked the countryside near Mullingar where we've photographed its gentle hills and grazing critters. These characters are as real as the pastoral landscape -- viewed over a cuppa, admiring a stone fence.
A rustic farmhouse kitchen designed by Giulio Perrone brings the rising damp right in -- with stone and hide and tree trunks incorporated into the furniture and lovely nature imagery projected between scenes.
The banter between real-life husband and wife team Mike Genovese and
Ellen Crawford  is a treat to listen to. The two play aging farm neighbors. 
TWO LONELY offspring -- each caring for an elderly parent on adjacent farms not far from Dublin -- are sparring, as they've done since childhood.
Grace Delaney’s adept dialect coaching pays off as four fine actors banter, judge and show
Will they find true love? Manny Fernandes, Carla Harting.
their stuff. We meet a cranky old farmer Tony Reilly (Mike Genovese) who announces to his son Anthony (Manny Fernandes) that he will not be leaving him the farm. In the old man's eyes, Tony is not a true Reilly -- resembling too much his mother's clan and temperament. Sure he’s worked the land his entire life, but he doesn’t “love it” like his father. MOTHER AND daughter Aolfe and Rosemary Muldoon (Ellen Crawford and Carla Harting) show up, and join the men in generational kvetching, neighborly barbs and unsolicited criticism.
The "children," 40-something Anthony and Rosemary, have known one another all their lives. Neither has married. We're cheering them on, despite a complex history, for they obviously have a fondness for one another.
ONCE THE parents pass, we reach the romance part, with Shanley taking his sweet Irish time. The story unfolds leisurely -- like time in a pub on a rainy night. Lacing the story with wry wit and sarcastic humor for which my people are known, Shanley brings a rural comedy-drama to our doorstep with universal themes: loneliness, pride,  forgiveness and love.
Surely Shanley, of the riveting Pulitzer Prize winning "Doubt," and wonderful film, "Moonstruck," would approve of Todd Salovey's deft direction. All four principles are terrific, prompting tearful sighs and bursts of laughter. 
TREAT YOURSELF, and your 10 best friends, your mum, da, sibling or beau. It's held over through Feb. 21 at San Diego Rep. And if you're near Billings, Montana, my "hometown playhouse," Billings Studio Theatre, has "Outside Mullingar" on tap through Feb. 13.
Catalina Island's famed Casino is a marvel to behold -- up next here!

UP NEXT: The famed Catalina Casino on the island of Santa Catalina, is not a casino as we've come to know it, but a gathering place, as per the original definition. With a fantastic organ concert, to boot. Come with us to this historic, one-of-a-kind theater and museum, long a party place, concert and celebration venue on California's only island paradise, Santa Catalina.  The Wrigley fortune built it more than 90 years ago and it is beloved by natives and tourists. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends and as the spirit moves:


  1. Wonderful piece about a wonderful production.
    Never saw a bad play at San Diego Rep. We have ticket for this weekend's Sunday matinee. L.A. friends joining us. Nice story and loved the Ireland photo!

  2. What could be better than being Irish -- and seeing a play about heritage. Shanley knows my people (his people, too!). And I found my own Rosemary! Lovely piece.

  3. Saw this play and loved, loved, loved it.
    Good tip because I'd missed it in the shuffle somehow.
    Lively, loving tribute to life and love and embracing the now.