Fire Exit Theatre’s ‘Outside Mullingar’ is a lovely production

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Upon a second viewing of Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley, one thing shines through about this play: the script is amazing. The characters are nuanced and the relationships are complex.

This play was produced by Rosebud Theatre in 2016, and now Fire Exit Theatre is producing it in Calgary. It’s a gem, as it’s clever and rooted in stubborn but full-of-love characters. Most stubborn of all is Tony (John Moerschbacher), who is getting on in age and wants to not leave the farm to his son Anthony (John McIver). He argues his heart out with his neighbour Aofie (Jemma Blackwell) about it, after Aofie’s husband’s funeral. They drink tea and discuss these affairs while Aofie’s daughter Rosemary (Kendra Hutchinson) and Anthony have their own discussion outside.

This Irish story is full of passion, clever one-liners, and concepts that come back around. Alfie illustrates that Rosemary has never forgotten the time when she was a little girl and Anthony pushed her down. It comes up later in the play and is not as it seems. When Tony offers Aofie a Guiness in a glass, she says she can’t drink out of a glass, and he quips that it tastes like mirrors. We later learn why she doesn’t like drinking out of a glass. Outside Mullingar is full of these storylines that come around full circle.

Blackwell is solid as Aofie and Moerschbacher has a few missteps but embodies the rude and miserable Tony. There is a great give-and-take between McIver and Hutchinson and it’s nice to see Hutchinson display fiery emotion and frustration without shouting.

Heather Pattingale played Rosemary in 2016 and has returned as the director. She ensures that the artists on stage bring their own spin to the characters they play. Dale Marushy’s set design has the farm kitchen on one side of the stage and a barn structure on the other. The theme of bumble bee hives is hidden throughout the design. Joy Robinson’s sound design helps elevate the moments of tension throughout the narrative.

Outside Mullingar is such a lovely story. It’s fun and odd, and at the climax, you root for the characters so hard and you put so much energy into it, that it’s like they are in the eye of the storm, inching closer and closer to each other. I’d watch that scene a hundred times over.

Fire Exit Theatre’s production of Outside Mullingar runs until May 5th. Purchase tickets here.

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