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OUTSIDE MULLIGNAR presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through May 30. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening performance.
For its final show of the season, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati welcomes Ed Stern back to the director’s chair for a charming and touching production of OUTSIDE MULLIGNAR.
The strong characterizations, the emotional tone, and the solid pacing of the production are excellent under Stern’s guidance.
Joneal Joplin doesn’t disappoint as stubborn and cantankerous Tom Reilly. In a way, Joplin brings a regal-ness to the role, as if Tom was an aging monarch worried about his kingdom’s future after his passing. Brian Isaac Phillips plays Anthony Reilly, the “unworthy” heir apparent to his father’s legacy. Phillips gives Anthony this great “odd duck” quality that is believable and endearing. In their opening scene together, it is easy to believe that this is only the latest in a series of similar conversations between father and son. Their final scene together was incredibly honest and touching.
From the farm next door we have Aoife Muldoon, who is, in her own way, just as as stubborn and cantankerous as Tony, played wonderfully by Dale Hodges. Aoife is quite the spitfire, despite the physical frailty of the character. Rounding out the cast is Jen Joplin as Aoife’s daughter, Rosemary, an odd duck in her own way. I really enjoyed how Joplin’s characterization of Rosemary shared similar traits with her mother, giving depth to their relationship, despite their lack of stage time together.
Jen Joplin and Phillips have great chemistry. In their scenes together, there is this unspoken expectancy between the two characters, as if each one wants something more from the other, but is waiting for the other to “make the first move.” Stuck in this emotional stalemate, the two, at times, comically bicker like an old married couple. The ending is simple, sweet and emotionally satisfying.
The demands of the set design for OUTSIDE MULLINGAR were smartly handled by Joe Tilford. Also, special kudos for having it rain on stage.
Overall a simple, heartfelt, charming, and laugh-out-loud funny, romantic comedy. Very enjoyable.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
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