Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Outside Mullingar with Bryan O'Byrne and Debra Messing

A Light, Lyrical Trip to the Emerald Isle in a Touching Play
By Lauren Yarger
John Patrick Shanley's newest Broadway entry, Outside Mullingar, is a wee delight. Well, not so wee. This lyrical, charming and surprising play getting a run by Manhattan Theatre Club is hugely satisfying. In fact, it's one of the most enjoyable shows of the season so far.

The always-excellent Brian O'Byrne (Frozen, Doubt), and TV star Debra Messing ("Smash," "Will and Grace"), who is impressive in her Broadway debut, team as two aging misfits in the midlands of Ireland who watch life pass by.

Anthony Reilly (O'Byrne) has worked his family's cattle farm all of his life, but suddenly, his disapproving father, Tony (Peter Maloney), starts hinting that he might disinherit his son who's never married and had a family. More importantly, he doesn't seem to enjoy the work.

"I don't take joy in the work," he says, "But I do it. Some of us don't have joy, but we do what we must."

The marrying part is not for lack of trying, however, on the part of Rosemary, (Messing, who manages an impressive Irish accent with the help of Dialect Coach Stephen Gabis). She's been trying to let Anthony know she's interested ever since they were youngsters, but something always seems to hold him back.

As Tony contemplate plans to sell his farm to a cousin, he talks about the future and death with his newly widowed neighbor, Aoife Muldoon (Dearbhla Molloy) and discovers that a strip of land he'd sold to her husband now belongs to Rosemary. That could prevent him from being able to make the real estate transaction.

Time passes and the elder Reilly's health fails, prompting a moving reconciliation with his son that explores the depths of family relationships and the capacity for all of us to forgive. What seemed the actions of a harsh, dissatisfied man, might really have been the act of a compassionate father trying to make his son happy.

As time continues to pass, however, it seems Rosemary and the shy object of her affections might never get together until Anthony takes a step of faith and shares with her about voices he hears out in the fields and a scary truth about himself that has prevented him from pursuing their relationship.

This revelation, startling and at first, unfathomable and humorous, steadily takes hold as Shanley's brilliance shines through and we realize Anthony's secret is a metaphor for the quirks we all have in our personalities that make us feel unlovable. It's a sweet, touching tale told in lyrical prose by a master storyteller who makes us laugh until we cry.

Doug Hughes directs excellent performances and engages a stellar creative team: John Lee Beatty, sets; Catherine Zuber, costumes; Mark McCullough, lighting; Tom Watson, hair and wig design, and original music and sound design by Fitz Patton. My one pet peeve: the rain doesn't look natural.

Outside Mullingar plays through March 16 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC.

Christians might also like to know:
--God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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