Courtesy of HSU Theater Arts
The Irish farmlands were brought to life inside of Arkansas Hall during the production of “Outside Mullingar” by John Patrick Shanley put on by the Theatre Arts department at Henderson State University. The play was shown September 30, October 1, 2 and 4, and was the first production in Henderson’s 2021-2022 season. It was a small production with only four students and three sets all crammed onto the stage at the same time.
To summarize the story of the play, it is quite a sad tale of growing old, losing loved ones, aspiring to be greater and neighborhood romance. Anthony Reilly, played by Camden Dalie Keech, is a middle-aged man who lives with his father, Tony Reilly, played by Garrett Talley, and works on his farm. Their neighbor, Aoife Muldoon, played by Savannah Price, just recently lost her husband and father to their daughter, Rosemary, played by Natalie Gray, who is around the same age as Anthony.
After the funeral, they all gather at the Reilly’s, and Tony says that he is going to give the farm to his American nephew, rather than his son Anthony. Anthony is torn on the situation, as he has put his life into the farm, yet he has dreams of doing something greater with his life. Rosemary also seems to be quite torn, because she both fights for him to keep the farm, but also tells Anthony he needs to live for once and make his dreams reality.
Tony finally gives the farm to Anothy as he is on his deathbed. Soon after, Aoife passes as well, leaving Anthony and Rosemary both living alone next to each other. Finally, years later, the two of them confess the love they have both had for each other the entire time, after a long conversation about loneliness and thoughts of suicide.
As far as the performances, all the actors were well above par. The most difficult part of acting in this play had to have been the accent, yet everyone kept it up with only minor hiccups here and there. Camden Dalie Keech’s accent performance was particularly well done. The performances also felt very authentic. The entire show is purely conversations mostly taking place in a dining room, and the actors brought the audience smoothly into that room. Even though it is just dialogue, I never once felt bored or that the conversation was dragged out. I will say that the outstanding performance has to go to Natalie Gray, as she seemed to really own the duality of sadness and confidence in her character.
The set design was very good, with the two dining room sets again pulling the audience right into the conversation. My only complaint is that I wish the outside portion had some more design to help represent the green fields that the characters referred to.
My favorite part of the production by far was the tone. Previous renditions of this story take a much more comedic approach, while this version really owned the darkness of it, to the point that I teared up during the last scene.
Overall, it was an amazing production and a great start to the 2021-2022 season. The next performance is “Love Letters” starting October 23.