by Beki Pineda

OUTSIDE MULLINGAR – Written by John Patrick Shanley; Directed by Dan Schock. Produced by Coal Creek Theater of Louisville (801 Grant Avenue, Louisville) through May 18. Tickets available at 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org.

If John Patrick Shanley, the playwright (DOUBT and the film MOONSTRUCK),  never made it to Ireland himself, it seems obvious that his Irish father who was born and raised in the Midlands must have never lost his accent and way of speaking. This script is written with the grace of the Irish splashed in each line – the sentence structures, the abbreviations, the rhythmic patterns – all make it nearly impossible not to sound Irish speaking the lines. Yet achieving the authenticity of the setting remains one of the challenges of each production. Only in Ireland could Rosemary and Anthony, our would be lovers, live side by side for all their life and remain so cautious with one another. If this play were set in America, they would have had it on by the time they were teenagers. End of story.

But thank goodness, Shanley did explore his Irish roots in this charming comedic love story which has been delighting audiences since it premiered on Broadway in 2014. The success of two previous productions on the Front Range have encouraged Coal Creek Theatre Company to bring their own version to their community. Aoife Muldoon (Kate Gulliver) and Tony Reilly (local favorite Steve Rausch)  are the older generation who own two farms side by side in the Irish countryside. Aoife’s husband has just passed away and the neighbors commiserate over a cuppa tea after the funeral. Their biggest concern is what will happen to their land after they are gone. Her only child is an unmarried daughter and his only son doesn’t “stand tall” on the land the way Tony thinks he should. He’s pondering selling it to a distant cousin from America who is more “Reilly” than his son. While they discuss this problem, their children, the middle-aged Anthony (Rob Leary) and Rosemary (Amy Sonnanstine), ponder the future outside in the rain. She is adamant about staying while he thinks about leaving. When Rosemary learns about the American cousin plan, she relentlessly badgers Tony until she gets her way.

As Death is the fifth character in most Irish plays, situations change and the land is passed on as it should be. One evening after Anthony has been caught outside Rosemary’s house with his metal-detecting equipment and is coerced into sharing a Guinness, he brings up the American cousin again. He presents him to Rosemary as a suitable suitor for her, much to her dismay. His plan is to get her married off so he can stop thinking about her. Her plan has always been to be with Anthony the rest of her life, either side by side on the farms or next to him in one of their houses. How she maneuvers him to understand her plan makes up the whole of Act II. But a funnier, more tender, sillier courtship scene has rarely been written. Their mutual discoveries will delight.

Extreme kudos go to set designer Chuck Kite for his clever and innovative design for two Irish kitchens and an outside barn in the small space in which Coal Creek operates. If you can forego your intermission drink and snack, it’s worth your while to sit in the audience and watch Stage Managers Renee Malis and Sage Miller assisted by Set Decorator Kathy Rausch completely change the set from one side of the stage to the other to create a whole new kitchen. I appreciated the little décor touches, like a St. Bridget’s cross and the small subtle heart designs adorning Rosemary’s kitchen which separated it from the more utilitarian kitchen of the men across the lane.  Sound Designer Steve Rausch and Director Dan Schock found a lovely version of “Wild Mountain Thyme,” a song that is referenced throughout the show, as scene change music.

As always, CCTL delights in large and small ways and always provides a meaningful theatre evening for their patrons. Caught half way between Boulder and Denver, they should have large audiences from both sides. Let’s make that happen.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!