Since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I am Irish, I started my celebration last week at a play set in Ireland-Outside Mullingar, written by John Patrick Shanley, best known as the writer of the movie Moonstruck and the play and movie Doubt.
The play begins with a father and son, played by Peter Maloney (Tony) and Brian F. O'Byrne (Anthony). They have returned from the funeral of their neighbor, Christopher Muldoon. The talk turns to who will inherit Muldoon's farm, his wife or daughter.
Tony tells Anthony that he will not leave his farm to Anthony because his face looks like the Kelly side of the family, not the Reilly side, and he doesn't believe that Anthony loves the land.
But when Muldoon's widow (Dearbhla Molloy) visits, Tony tells her he intends to leave the farm to his nephew who lives in America because he wants to marry an Irish woman and have children, thereby insuring the farm will remain in O'Reilly hands. Tony is 43 years old and has no prospects for marriage or children.
Anthony's only issue is that years ago he needed money, so he sold a 40 meter parcel of his land to Muldoon, and that now means he must go through two gates to get from the road to his property. He needs Muldoon's widow to sell him back the land, but she informs him that her husband gave that piece of property to Rosemary (Debra Messing), their daughter, years ago when she was six years old.
Why did he do that? Because Tony pushed Rosemary down on that piece of land when she was six and he was thirteen during a scuffle. And now Rosemary has her revenge.
But Rosemary secretly (or not-so-secretly) loves Tony. Tony is not very social, and when he was sixteen, a girl broke his heart and he never got over it. Rosemary does her best to passively-aggressively let Tony know how she feels, but he doesn't get it.
The scenes between O'Bryne and Messing are pure magic, they have a real chemistry. O'Bryne has done a lot of drama (including Shanley's Doubt), but I have never seen him in a comedy. He is just as deft in comedy. His exasperation at not understanding why his father would not leave him the land and not knowing that Rosemary loves him is endearing, even if you want to knock him in the head.
Messing is a delight here. While I have seen her in comedy many times (TV's Ned & Stacey, and Will & Grace), she brings a whole new dimension to her portrayal of Rosemary. She was prickly and tough and when she lays her heart on the line, it was so moving.
The writing here is sharp and crisp, and the audience roared at every hilarious line uttered by the brilliant foursome. And I have never heard an audience sigh "aww" so many times as I did here when the scene was just so sweet.
When Tony tells Rosemary the reason he has never loved again, it is so crazy, yet it works for the character and the play. He opens up to the audience and Rosemary, and we laughed and gasped through the implausibility.
I can't remember smiling so much through a show, I only wish that it wasn't a limited run show because I would love to take so many people to see Outside Mullingar. This show would be worth a full price admission ticket, I was utterly charmed.