Patrons embarking on a night at the theater look forward to being en rapt by a story. Perhaps they’ll travel to a distant land or to events in the past. Maybe they’ll tap their toes to a song or laugh heartily at the shenanigans and high jinks of characters in a comedy. Sometimes patrons are captivated by a poignant story and are touched by the characters because they can identify with the situation or circumstances.
Patrons attending John Patrick Shanley’s quirky Irish love story, “Outside Mullingar,” journey to Ireland and to the tale of two neighboring Irish farmers and their families. Relationships between father and son or mother and daughter can be filled with intense emotion, from deep love and affection to passionate misunderstandings. On opening night it was thrilling to hear the audiences’ reaction to Shanley’s work. Laughter was just one of many responses I heard and the moments of silence were just as expressive as the many sighs of joy.
Anthony and Rosemary are two 40-ish neighbors who have stayed on their family farms to care for their parents and the land. Both farms have been passed down from family member to family member for generations. They love the land, embrace the work and have never married. Anthony roams the fields day and night starry-eyed and ignorant of the torch Rosemary carries for him. After the wake for Rosemary’s dad, Anthony discovers his own father, Tony, is hesitant to leave his bachelor son the family farm.
Actor William J. Norris plays Tony and this is the second time he has portrayed the elder farmer. “I have a better understanding of Tony this time around,” Bill said over dinner one night. When I asked further, Bill explained.
“I moved to Iowa this spring and now live among farmers,” he continued. “They are respectful, resolute and stalwart. A handshake means more than a signature on a dotted line and they take family obligations seriously. They love the land and will lend you a hand without you having to ask for help. They are the type of people who will take offense if you say thank you or try to return the favor in some way.
“I’ve also learned, as have the families in the play, that grudges can be held onto for years because of one misspoken word. Shanley has gotten to the core of these two families and has crafted an elegant stage play lush with lyrical Irish dialogue. Tony is prideful. He wants to leave this world knowing his love of the land will be carried into the next generation of his family. The farm is his life, his blood, his legacy and his family’s heritage.”
I would rather be on my farm, than be emperor of the world. – George Washington
The father of our country said this in response to criticism of his presidency. Some people see dirt where a farmer sees potential. Tony wants to see potential in his son, as all fathers do, and eventually has faith love will find his son.
“Outside Mullingar” is a touching, sweet journey and I hope you’ll take it with us. It is performed without an intermission with a running time of just over 90-mintutes. Join the Players Wednesday, September 2 for a pre-show seminar when Megan O’Meara of O’Meara’s Irish House in Fish Creek discusses all things Irish. Megan will be joined by a seasonal worker from Ireland to discuss growing up in the motherland. For tickets or more information on our pre-show seminar visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone the Box Office at 920-868-3287. I look forward to seeing you by the Bay this season, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!