Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to entertainment and there may not be a better example of that than the diverse array of offerings that Pioneer Theatre Company produces year in and year out. It can’t be an easy task to go from the crazy rock concert atmosphere of The Rocky Horror Show directly to a play as dramatic and deep as Outside Mullingar which was nominated in 2014 for a Tony for Best Play and was written by celebrated playwright John Patrick Shanley. However this is exactly what PTC is attempting to do with the latter opening October 30th and running through November 14th.
“I feel like Karen Azenberg (PTC Artistic Director) has done a brilliant job of diversifying this season at Pioneer to give audiences a taste of so many different delights,” says Amy Bodnar who plays Rosemary Muldoon. “You have Fiddler on the Roof which is like a companion piece to Outside Mullingar because of the family elements and dealing with change. Then you get something like The Rocky Horror Show which is like a big whipped cream pie that everyone wants to eat so she has given everybody a little bit of everything.”
Outside Mullingar is a contemporary Irish romantic comedy with dramatic undertones that made its stage debut in 2014 to critical acclaim. The play was written by Shanley who won both the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize for his play Doubt and won an Academy Award for his screen play for the film Moonstruck. The play follows two Irish farmers, Rosemary Muldoon and Anthony Reilly, played by Tom O’Keefe, who are lifelong neighbors whose families find themselves in the middle of an unfortunate land dispute. Despite their differences a long dormant romance begins to bloom in the most unlikely of circumstances with dramatic and comedic results.
“The play is tremendous. As soon as I read it I thought it was a dream role but that it would never happen,” relates Bodnar. “It’s such a wonderful strong character to play. She is so confident and yet at the same time vulnerable. It’s so beautifully written and I feel lucky to be doing it.”
While Bodnar wasn’t able to see the play during its brief Broadway run she was able to see it on video after she got the part of Muldoon and although she was deeply impressed by the performance of Debra Messing who starred in the role she doesn’t feel any pressure to try and duplicate it.
“I’m drawing from my own imagination and not necessarily what I saw,” says Bodnar. “She (Messing) was absolutely wonderful and it would be very difficult to do what she did. It would be very hard to imitate that and it would be a mistake to try.”
Although most audiences tend to be drawn to musicals there is an element to a straight play which generally includes more narrative and has the ability to explore the depth of human emotion on a much deeper level. Outside Mullingar is a play that thrives off raw emotion that is supplemented by the finely tuned writing of Shanley which is part of the reason Bodnar is thrilled to be part of this production.
“In a musical you have to express your emotion in song which requires a different kind of depth that’s required to bring that alive and make it feel real,” says Bodnar. “This is a romantic comedy that is so poetic and beautiful with notes that will touch every single person. It’s about love and loss which is something most people have experienced or will at some point. Its dramatic poetry, it really is.”
U students can experience this for themselves with their Student Arts Pass to attend at a discounted rate by showing their U Card at the PTC box office. Students can also take advantage of “Rush” by going to the box office one hour before the show and purchase a $5 ticket with a valid U Card.
“I think the most compelling reason to see this play would be because it’s a beautiful story presented in an incredible authentic way by one the the truly great playwrights of our time and have an evening where you can enjoy some time away from studying,” says Bodnar. “You can go to movies or watch television but nothing is going to carry you away like a piece of live theatre.”