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NY1 Theater Review: 'Outside Mullingar'

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Debra Messing is making her Broadway debut in "Outside Mullingar," a new work from Oscar-, Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Patrick Shanley. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Among his many talents, playwright John Patrick Shanley knows how to write ethnic. He gained movie fame with his Italian-accented "Moonstruck" 27 years ago, and now, with his romantic comedy "Outside Mullingar," he digs into his Irish roots. And just like "Moonstruck," "Mullingar" exhibits a charming fluency in the language of love and heartache, laughing all the while.

Anthony Reilly is a loner of sorts. He and his father Tony tend to the family farm in rural Ireland. The neighboring Muldoon farm is run by Rosemary and her newly widowed mother. Rosemary is a tempestuous lass, as outspoken as Anthony is withdrawn, and while you just know they'll end up together, the route they take and the unexpected detours are what make this sweetly loopy tale so engaging.

Shanley has captured a very authentic voice with these characters. The lonely gentleman farmer, the plain-spoken, dry-humored elders and the spunky girl next door may at first seem to be standard types, but Shanley has nicely shaded them in. And Doug Hughes' immaculate production provides a very satisfying emotional arc.

Dearbhla Molloy and Peter Maloney are absolutely grand in roles that fit like well-worn slippers. Brian F. O'Byrne never fails to impress. He manages to convey charisma even as Anthony emerges a very odd duck of a man. His final poignant scene with his ailing father is, alone, worth a ticket.

The one big casting unknown here was Debra Messing, making her Broadway debut, and, despite her glorious red hair, has no Irish in her. But from her brogue to her brusque mannerisms, she's entirely convincing, bringing to mind a modern day Maureen O'Hara.

The cultural landscape is full of romantic comedies, and it's getting harder to come up with something new. But it's in the telling that separates the wheat from the chaff, and here, Shanley once again reveals both a touch of the poet and a fine gift of gab.

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