There never seems to be a dull moment around the Players’ campus. It seems just like yesterday that the cast of “Lend Me A Tenor” took their final curtain call, “Outside Mullingar” opened to rave reviews and the cast of “Nunsense” began rehearsals.
Within the span of a few days the set of “Lend Me A Tenor,” a hotel room with several slamming doors, was cleared and two cottages from Ireland took its place. “Outside Mullingar” is a prickly Irish love story by John Patrick Shanley, the author of “Moonstruck” and “Doubt.” Shanley earned a Tony Award-nomination for his Irish tale, and critics and patrons agree “Outside Mullingar” is a wonderful night of theater. To read reviews, see photos or watch a preview video, visit our website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.
The talented cast of Jay Whittaker, Maggie Kettering, William J. Norris and Peggy Roeder are receiving nightly standing ovations. Advocate correspondent Erin Hunsader said, “Shanley has an incredible knack for writing about family with an honest, perfectly timed comedic hand.”
“Outside Mullingar” features Anthony and Rosemary, two 40-ish neighbors in rural Ireland who stayed on the farms to care for their aging parents. As the years go by, Rosemary pines for Anthony, who remains oblivious to Rosemary’s feelings. Shanley’s lyrical dialogue and humor tenderly conveys that it’s never too late to take a chance on love.
Upon entering the theater, patrons for “Outside Mullingar” are greeted with visual reference to Ireland’s gray, solitary landscape. The proscenium, the area of the theater surrounding the stage opening, is filled with a “sky-scape” framed with batons, to give the illusion of framed cottages, sheds or outbuildings. A single outside yard light is attached and, in certain scenes, is seemingly the only source of light.
Conversations that Rosemary and Anthony have while they pause from working on their farms are performed in front of this cloudy blue drop. The characters at times seem small, a mere speck in this landscape. This is a visual representation of how these two feel at times – a mere dot in the vast world around them.
“Neither one fits snugly within the Ireland where they live — a theme that’s established almost as soon as the lights come up …” said Mike Fischer of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Fischer goes on to call Whittaker’s performance “intense and restless” and that “there’s enough smoldering passion in Kettering’s Rosemary to start a five-alarm fire.”
While touching and telling scenes are being performed by Whittaker and Kettering in front of the sky-scape, a very fine-tuned dance of scenic elements is occurring backstage. Riggers are moving curtains while the deck crew shifts one cottage kitchen for another.
Each kitchen is built on rolling platforms and as one kitchen moves off-stage the other is then rolled into position. Each kitchen has a distinct personality, an illustration of each family. The well-worn bachelor pad of Anthony and his father, Tony, is in contrast to the warm and welcoming environment Rosemary has maintained as one would a hope chest. Kudos to properties designer Jesse Gaffney and her team for making each feel as they should.
Congratulations are also extended to our entire creative team including eight production interns, five designers, two carpenters, a scenic artist, technical director, master electrician, costume shop manager and props artisan. When you visit the Players, thank them for all of the hard work and efforts they put forth all season and into each of these change-overs. The production interns and most members of the crew have pre-show duties at each performance. They help park cars, usher, tend the bar, distribute tickets at the will call window, sell tickets in the Box Office or assist in the concession stand before the show.
“Outside Mullingar” is a sweet, quirky love story you don’t want to miss. I hope you’ll take the 90-minute journey to Ireland with us before our last departure on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. Join us tonight, Wednesday, September 2, for a pre-show seminar when Megan O’Meara and Mary Moran of O’Meara’s Irish House in Fish Creek discusses all things Irish and growing up on the Emerald Isle. For tickets or more information on our pre-show seminar or upcoming musical comedy, “Nunsense,” visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone the Box Office at 920-868-3287. I look forward to seeing you by the Bay where the sun sets, the curtain rises, the stars shine and everyone is a wee bit Irish!