Theatre Reviews
Photo by John Lamb, courtesy of West End Players

West End Players Guild is gifting their audience with a sweet, offbeat romantic comedy for the Valentine's Day season. "Outside Mullingar" is a small, character-driven play with much in the way of quirky comedy, as well as a good deal of heart. What makes this production work especially well, though, is its excellent cast.

"Outside Mullingar" is a short play, running about 90 minutes with no intermission. It consists of a series of scenes involving four characters over a period of what appears to be about three years, as farming neighbors in rural Ireland deal with issues of land ownership, family grudges, parental expectations, and especially the relationship between a socially awkward man and the woman who grew up next door. Anthony, played by Jason Meyers, and Rosemary, played by Colleen Backer, are obviously in love, but for various reasons neither has admitted their feelings to the other. They both are objects of concern for their parents--Rosemary's mother, the recently widowed Aoife , played by Jodi Stockton; and Anthony's also widowed father, Tony, played by Brad Slavik. Both parents are in ill health, and Tony especially is having second thoughts about leaving the family farm to Anthony, who Tony considers odd, worrying that his son will never marry or have children to inherit the land. Much comic bickering ensues, and time passes as Rosemary continues to drop hints at a seemingly clueless Anthony. Will they ever get together, and if so, how?

This is fun, quirky show, made all the more hilarious by the excellent pacing by director Jessa Knust, and strong chemistry and comic timing from the wonderful cast. Meyers and Backer are both superb, and their chemistry is obvious from their first moments on stage together, even as the characters continue to talk around their readily apparent attraction. Meyers makes the awkward, reticent Anthony endearing, and Backer's increasingly frustrated and determined Rosemary is easy to sympathize with. There are spirited supporting performances from Stockton and Slavik as the bickering Aoife and Tony, with Slavik especially having some strong scenes with Meyers. All four work well together, bringing much energy to the already witty script.

The setting, mood, and atmosphere of rural Ireland are maintained admirably by means of Jacob Winslow's simple but effective set, as well as Karen Pierce's evocative lighting. Tracey Newcomb's costumes suit the characters well, and there's also effective sound design by Morgan Maul-Smith.

Overall, "Outside Mullingar" is an entertaining, sweet romantic comedy. The exceptional cast makes it an especially enjoyable theatrical experience. It's an excellent Valentine from West End Players Guild.

Performances of “Outside Mullingar” continue through February 19th at Untion Avenue Christian Church.  For more information, visit the West End Players Guild website.

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