Little Theatre of the Rockies’ summer of surprises continues with John Patrick Shanley’s “Outside Mullingar.” The LTR schedule did not seem promising when it was first announced, with a pair of relatively unknown shows bookended by average musicals. Yet every show this summer has been high quality, topped by “Mullingar.” Simply put, this is a near-perfect evening of theater.
Many of us saw Shanley’s “Doubt” at Little Theatre in 2008 and understand what a gifted writer he is. Regardless of whether you were able to see that show, you would be advised to see this show.
Like many of the best pieces of dramatic literature, it is difficult to categorize this play. It could be called a comedy, a drama, a dramedy or a love story. All of these are right, yet all fall short of accurately describing this beautiful tale of modest, quirky love derailed by an old land dispute.
“Outside Mullingar” features a cast that exemplifies the very definition of an ensemble. None of them make any attempt to out-perform each other, and none of them try to be bigger than the story. Those of us watching can just sit back and allow the sweet story to pour over us, as refreshing as a cool summer beverage.
Greeley natives Megan Van De Hey and John Jankow star as neighboring farmers in small-town Ireland, with a long history and a mutual, though somewhat reluctant, attraction. They are joined by Billy McBride and Noel Johnston: McBride as Van De Hey’s recently widowed mother and Johnston as Jankow’s dying father.
These veteran actors give totally committed performances, and we in the audience are better for their efforts. It may help that they have a personal history together — both Van De Hey and Jankow were students of Johnston’s in Greeley Central High School’s vaunted drama program a generation ago.
Much of the humor of the show comes from the matter-of-fact way in which the characters approach their lives, their intertwined history that binds them together yet separates them and their predictions for the future.
David Grapes provides a steady touch with his direction, not allowing anything to get in the way of this tender story. Sometimes it is the stories that almost direct themselves that are the most difficult to produce, but Grapes handles it like the seasoned professional he is. The final scene revelation by Jankow could easily stretch the bounds of believability, yet Grapes keeps it toned down enough that it becomes a sweet, tender moment.
Humorous, touching and extremely well performed, “Outside Mullingar” should be added to your must-see list this summer.
— Bryan VanDriel lives in Greeley and has been active in the arts for over 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full review can be found here: