Despite all the talk about death, doom and real estate, Shanley packs in plenty of laugh, or at least chuckle, lines. But the best moment in this 95-minute love story is the sweet climactic scene he's crafted for the would-be lovers.
Brían F. O’Byrne, so terrific as the priest in Doubt, stumbled as Jake Gyllenhaal's brother in last season’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. But he is back in top form as the socially awkward Anthony, portraying both the decency and the dignity of a simple man who yearns for happiness even while he fears it (click here for an interview with the actor).
The more extroverted Rosemary is played by Debra Messing, who hasn’t been on the New York boards since the Manhattan Theatre Club's original production of Collected Stories back in 1997, before she got cast in the hit sitcom “Will & Grace.” But the raven-haired actress hasn’t lost her stage chops and she shines in her Broadway debut.
Messing makes Rosemary’s blunt speech and tenacious passion both amusing and poignant and she even manages a brogue that compares favorably with that of her Irish-born co-star's (click here to read about her).
Anthony and Rosemary’s coming together is almost marred by a final bit of whimsy that Shanley apparently couldn’t resist adding. But under Doug Hughes’ steady direction, O’Byrne and Messing keep the show grounded.
No one would call Outside Mullingar, which is running at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through March 16, a major work. But not every play has to be. Sometimes, a theatergoer just wants a bit of pleasure. And this romantic tale offers plenty of it.