The new play from Patrick Shanley, Outside Mullingar, covers some familiar themes of love, family, old age, and the ups and downs that come with the combination of the three. But where this story rises above others is in how packed it is with humor that both delight the audience and endear the characters to one another.
Set in Ireland, the play centers on two neighboring family units, both with an elderly patriarch or matriarch at the helm and a child who isn't quite living up to societal standards and familial pressures taking care of them. Tempers flare at times, yet you know that deep down each of the four characters has an affinity for the others that extends beyond the words they choose to use in each other's company.
Anthony (Brian F. O'Byrne) and Rosemary (Debra Messing) must make sense of their families and their lives as they look ahead at the properties they're due to inherit. Can they step into their parents' shoes and make the most of isolation and wilderness? Separately, they appear to be lost and confused. Together, though, this pair gains strength. You see the love they share well before the two of them get to experience it.
Anthony's father, played by Peter Maloney, is a joy to watch amid the character's protests. On the other side of the table sits Rosemary's mother, played by Dearbhla Molloy, who shares wisdom in short spurts and possesses a loving soul and some spirituality to offer to the bunch. All of the drama driven by these family members and close neighbors culminates in a final scene that is funny and heartwarming. While Anthony and Rosemary look ahead, you feel the spirits of their parents on stage with them. They've inherited more than the farm.