by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Doug Hughes
Starring Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne
A Production of the Manhattan Theatre Club
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Reviewed by David Spencer

John Patrick Shanley’s  Outsde Mullingar is a sweet, Irish tone poem about a young middle-aged man and woman (Debra Messing and Brian F. O’Byrne) in a small community who seem destined to be with each other yet are unable to see a clear path to each other, in part because of their bickerish aging, widowed parents (Dearblhla Molloy and Peter Maloney), both of whom would seem to be dying this year…and in part due to their own innate shyness and sense of small-town propriety.

               Because it backs meanderingly into its central story without an immediately ascertainable sense of direction, the play took a long time to warm up for me, and it wasn’t really until the second act that I found myself emotionally engaged, despite lovely performances and typically clean direction by Doug Hughes. Other members of the audience didn’t seem quite so slow to get on board as I, and perhaps that’s because sometimes it’s best to just give over to the moment rather than parse it, which seems to be the message of this gentle little play as well. Then again, the point of abandon must therefore be personal and unpredictable because you can’t give yourself over to what you aren’t feeling. So it’s anybody’s guess as to whether this one goes on your “must see” list; though I’d suggest that if you have an affection for the Shanley catalog, there’s no reason not to roll the dice.

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