A strip of land and the love between misfit farmers are at the heart of the Tony award-winning play “Outside Mullingar,” opening Oct. 31 at Heartland Theatre in Normal.
Written by John Patrick Shanley (“Moonstruck,” “Doubt”), the play offers romance amidst the thorns of a long-simmering feud. Taking directorial responsibilities is Don LaCasse, who revealed the play features an unconventional romance between rural Irish neighbors – Anthony and Rosemary – whose parents are embroiled in a land dispute.
Steeped in melancholy humor, the script entwines faith, yearning, home and eccentricity. As the older generation buts heads over the land, the younger generation lurch towards love, said Rhys Lovell, artistic director of Heartland Theatre.
“Both Anthony and Rosemary have dreams of their own. There’s a yearning there, it’s stronger in one of the characters, to get away. They’re also not a young couple. It’s a later in life romance that we’re seeing. It’s also a romance that has been bubbling for decades.”
“There’s an incident that happened in the past that has everything to do with this argument over this tract of land. And you’ll have to come and see the show to find out about that,” he added with a sly grin.
Heartland Theatre sticks by its no spoilers policy, but LaCasse does concede that the romance is definitely unconventional.
“It really is a romantic comedy. They’re older and more mature. It makes it a much more interesting story for me.”
“They’re not necessarily going through the kind of courtship that you would typically see in a romantic comedy,” agreed Lovell. “It’s almost an antagonistic relationship at the beginning, when you see the way that they interact with one another. I think Rosemary is, by far, the more aggressive of the two in terms of moving that relationship forward.”
“She’s a force of nature,” LaCasse said. “She has loved him for as long as she can remember, and he is not even aware of it.”
Yet, somehow, cluelessness sounds that much more fetching when delivered in an Irish brogue. To help the actors master the tricky accent, a dialect coach has been engaged at the theater. It’s up to Kelsey Fisher-Waits to train the actors to deliver their lines in an Irish accent, but not to let the accent actually be the performance.
“The thing about dialects is that you can get so focused as an actor on the dialect, that everything else kind of falls to the side,” Lovell said. “And it becomes about watching an actor do a dialect rather who the character is.”
“Hopefully, though a lot of repetition, they will get to a point where they can forget about the accent, that it’ll just be there. And then they can focus on the action and the relationships in the play," LaCasse added.
Under the brogue, there’s a great message for the audience, Lovell revealed.
“It’s never too late to fall in love. It’s never too late to realize your full potential in life. Seize life! Seize the moment!”
“Outside Mullingar” runs at Heartland Theatre in Normal from Oct. 31 – Nov. 16.
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