Actors Emma Slipp and Garrett Ross star in the Chemainus Theatre Festival production of Outside Mullingar. (Mike Gregory Photo)

Chemainus Theatre’s Outside Mullingar an Irish romantic comedy for the ages

A love story with all the charm and romance of Ireland wrapped into one play, Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of Outside Mullingar is a reminder that it’s never too late to follow your heart.

The story is a tale of two families, the Reillys and Muldoons, who have owned farms next to each other for generations and a land dispute between them that’s been slowly coming to a boil.

“Besides all of that there’s this beautiful love story that takes place between the woman on the one farm and the man on the other,” said actor Garrett Ross who plays the role of Anthony Reilly.

Emma Slipp, who Chemainus audiences will be familiar with mostly from Silent Sky, is the love struck Rosemary Muldoon.

“She’s been in love with him for years, since they were kids, and he’s sort of a damaged and has a deep dark secret that’s left him very closed off,” adds Ross, who has been on stages in Edmonton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and New York.

Also bringing the play to life are Brian Hinson as Tony Reilly and Kathryn Kerbes as Aoife Muldoon.

The romantic comedy takes place over the course of five years when Anthony and Rosemary are roughly in their 30s and early 40s.

“It’s the journey of them falling in love later on in life,” Ross said. “Everything happens for a reason and there’s this sadness about it with wasted time and how everything is meant to happen in it’s own time. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful story.”

Being from Nova Scotia, Slipp had another reason she wanted to be in the performance due to the strong Irish influence in her home province. There was a considerable adjustment to be made in the dialogue, however, and Erin Ormond worked wonders in that department.

“It’s definitely a big factor in the work we’ve been doing to get it right,” noted Slipp.

“It’s been interesting doing the dialect work and trying to get my own east coast dialect out of the way.”

Slipp admits concentrating so heavily on getting it right has slipped into her daily conversations, even in the short time since rehearsals got under way.

“I have an Irish accent all the time,” she laughed.

For Ross, Anthony’s internal struggles challenged his acting skills as he unravels on the stage what is a very complex character.

“In the inside he’s a really dark, angsty character and on the outside my challenge over the last little while has been to try and bring a brightness to that,” he said. “The story ends up being a lot of how she pulls him kicking and screaming into more of a healthy place. It’s about the transformation and power of love and how it heals.”

The actor was familiar with the Outside Mullingar prior to auditioning for the part and called it “one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve seen on stage in a long time.”

“There’s something also about an Irish play or the Irish dialect that brings out such comedy,” he said. “The bickering, and the fighting between families so prone to huge emotional outbursts, it’s just so fun to play that with that kind of dialogue.”

The humour is one of the things that captivated artistic director Mark DuMez about Outside Mullingar when Ormond brought it home to read and Chemainus Theatre Foundation member Maria Ridewood, who’d seen it on Broadway, suggested he check it out.

“The play surprised me,” conceded DuMez. “I laughed out loud at the characters and the situations, the bittersweet longings, and the pinpoint turns the piece walked.”

Playwright John Patrick Shanley is, himself, a poet. He was the proverbial ‘tough guy’ raised in the Bronx and so was once ashamed of his poetic inclination, until he saw a production of Cyrano de Bererac, which he describes as being “about a poet who was the toughest guy in the room.”

Shanley’s quirky insight into human emotions informs his work as a writer. It is apparent in the vibrant characters and lyrical language we encounter in Outside Mullingar, as well as in his other iconic works such as Moonstruck.

He has written more than 25 plays and screenplays. His 1987 Moonstruck won three Academy awards; he wrote and directed the film Joe Versus the Volcano; and the Broadway smash hit Doubt: A Parablewon the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005.

Having spent a bit of time in Ireland, Ross adds that it’s an appropriate show for the area that he hopes audiences will enjoy.

“I think it’s actually a perfect show for Chemainus because there’s something about the Island that reminds me of Ireland a little bit. It certainly has a feeling that will resonate with people on the Island here and it’s definitely the goal to bring that Irish flare and life into the piece”

Matinee and evening shows for all ages run Oct 19 – Nov 3, 2018.

Call the Box Office at 1-800-565-7738 or visit chemainustheatre.ca to book your tickets. Show enhancements are available and include: free “talk-backs” with the cast and crew following Wednesday performances, a special show-themed dinner in the Playbill Dining Room, and accommodation package at the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn.

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