PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 18-24: Bradley Cooper Coming Back to Broadway and Outside Mullingar Opens

By Robert Simonson
24 Jan 2014

Debra Messing
Debra Messing
Photo by Joan Marcus

Playwright John Patrick Shanley has had some critical successes and some outright misses in the ten years since Doubt made him a bankable writer. But he hasn't achieved a popular success to match that Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

That run of middling luck seems to have come to an end with Outside Mullingar, the new Shanley play that officially opened its limited Broadway engagement Jan. 23.

The subject matter couldn't be more different from that of Doubt — or any other Shanley play for that matter, unless you include the romantic whiskey of his best known film, "Moonstuck." Set in rural Ireland, the story concerns Anthony and Rosemary, two introverted misfits and neighbors approaching 40.

Critics didn't pussyfoot around in their appraisal. The Times called the play "Mr. Shanley's finest work since Doubt." The Paper of Record admitted it "is a lighter, slighter play, a softhearted comedy freckled with dark reflections on the unsatisfactory nature of life and the thorns of love. But Mr. Shanley's lyrical writing, and the flawless production, directed by Doug Hughes for Manhattan Theater Club, give such consistent pleasure that even though we know the equations that define romcoms will add up to the familiar sums, we are happy to watch as they do."



The Hollywood Reporter called it a "charmer," noting that, "Unapologetic sentimentality without too much treacle isn't easy to do, but the playwright pulls it off with confidence." Newsday commented, "Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne are so, what's a more grown-up word for adorable? — charming? irresistible? combustible? — together that we wish this romantic comedy would go on for hours."

Variety summed up the opinions of several reviewers in writing, "It may not be as dramatic as Doubt or as funny as 'Moonstruck,' but John Patrick Shanley has not written a more beautiful or loving play than Outside Mullingar." 

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The acclaimed Public Theater production of the David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical Here Lies Love, an immersive theatrical experience that captures the political rise and fall of Filipino leaders Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, will return Off-Broadway in March.

Here Lies Love was extended four times during its initial run last season at the Public's LuEsther Theater, and the Public had been working to find a suitable venue for the acclaimed musical that ended its run July 28, 2013. So it's bringing the show back to its original theatre. However, the production will be a rental at the Public, which will not put any of its own money into the commercial return.

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