Family values at heart of new Apple Hill Playhouse production
An award-winning contemporary play set in rural Ireland that digs into family values and love caught the eye of veteran actor Dennis “Chip” Kerr of Greensburg.
“Irish plays are almost always about families, unrequited love, words not spoken, words that should not have been spoken, and all delivered by characters that are quintessentially Irish, but have universal appeal,” he says about “Outside Mullingar,” playing Sept. 5-15 at Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont.
Kerr likens the tender romantic comedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Patrick Shanley to a Celtic love knot, a traditional Irish symbol of unbroken loops that are inseparable from each other.
“I’m always a sucker for a good Irish story, and ‘Outside Mullingar’ is just that,” he says. “What audiences will take away from this show is the warm glow that one gets when sitting around a turf fire with friends, sharing a Guinness and family stories.”
Kerr portrays Tony Reilly, a man who has worked the cattle farm that’s been in his family for 120 years. His wife has died and he lives with his 42-year-old son, Anthony (T.C. Brown of Pittsburgh, formerly of Greensburg), who doesn’t share his father’s passion for farm work or life.
Brown says Anthony’s life revolves around the family farm and keeping it going but he is somewhat of a lost soul, trying to find his way.
Rosemary Muldoon (Jen Kwiatek of Saltsburg) is about the same age as Anthony. She lives next door and is set to inherit her family’s small farm.
Secretly in love with him, “she spends the entire play trying to unravel some unknown force that is keeping them apart,” Kwiatek says.
“This play is about family, to which everyone can relate, and the complicated way we love each other, disagree, argue, distance ourselves, make jokes and reconnect. I think people will come away remembering some great humor and some heart-warming moments,” she says.
Angela Thompson of Oakmont portrays Aoife, Rosemary’s mother, whom she describes as “tender, feisty, practical and has no filter.”
“This is a beautiful love story about flawed relationships, but also a story about how love overcomes those flaws,” Thompson says. “It is so beautifully written – the language flows naturally, and the characters are fascinating, but realistic.”
Brown says “Outside Mullingar” has a lot of heart and humor.
“Although the play is set in Ireland, it could have been set anywhere,” he says. “The themes in the play are universal, and the dialogue at times has a poetic sense of imagery. The characters are all making their way through life the best they can.”
Katya Shaffer of Jeannette says she wanted to direct “Outside Mullingar” because the script is beautifully written and it touches on certain family issues that are close to her heart.
“It hasn’t been done a lot in the area, so it is a new experience for most people,” she says. “It is a wonderful example of family dynamics and proves that not all family is blood related.”
Shaffer has directed several shows for community theaters, including “Social Security” and “Let your Hair Down Rapunzel” for Apple Hill Playhouse, and “Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Story” and “Dorothy Meets Alice” for The Theatre Factory in Trafford.
Kerr, who has performed regionally for more than 50 years, was last seen in “Moonlight and Magnolias” at Apple Hill. He also has performed with New Kensington Civic Theatre and The Theatre Factory.
Brown’s credits include “Redneck Revenge” for Pittsburgh Playwrights, “The Pillowman” for Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater and “Private Lives” for South Park Theatre.
Kwiatek was featured in “Dixie Swim Club” at Apple Hill and “Boeing Boeing” for New Kensington Civic Theatre.
Thompson’s recent credits include “Grease” at Apple Hill, “Bonnie and Clyde” for Split Stage and “Nuncrackers” for The Theatre Factory.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.