PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Outside Mullingar — The Boy Next Farm

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24 Jan 2014

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Debra Messing
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
It's such a well-crafted play, he contended, that you don't have to be Irish to do a good job of directing it. "I'm only partially Irish myself," he demurred. (His father was the definitive Da, the late, great Tony winner, Barnard Hughes.) "I spent a lot of time in Ireland, and I'm the proud bearer of an Irish passport. It doesn't hurt to be somewhat acquainted with the land and the people, and I certainly drew on the fact that I had wandered over those bogs and those fields with certain frequency ever since I was a teenager. But I think that Outside Mullingar is a universal work. This is a play about family life, about aging parents, about moving to the front of the line in life and realizing that time is short and, most of all, about the need for love.

"There are two moments in the play where we thought we'd just let it happen — the hug in scene four between father and son and the kiss in scene seven. We just decided we were going to let those play in real time and not hustle anything along."

It has been quite a while since theatregoers have been treated to a good old-fashioned kiss, and this one lasts beyond the applause it almost unerringly gets.

On opening night, it clocked in at 36 seconds, which surprised its instigator, Brian F. O'Byrne. "Wow!" he exclaimed softly. "It didn't seem that long. I was aware it was a long kiss. If you waited that long for a kiss, Harry, you'd take a while as well, right?"

O'Byrne found Anthony a "pretty neat" character. "He has surprising elements," the actor said. "Any character that's surprising is always fun. When you have something in your hip pocket that you know is going to be revealed at some stage, is always a lot of fun. I think he's a gentle soul, and I like gentle people. It's so far from me."

Debra Messing, on the other side of that kiss, said the moment is consistently a major crowd-pleaser — one of the happy perks of finally making it to Broadway.

The Emmy winner of "Will & Grace" and star of the recently canceled "Smash" made her last stage appearance Off-Broadway for Manhattan Theatre Club 14 years ago in Donald Margulies' excellent two-hander, Collected Stories, opposite Maria Tucci.

As Russian Jewish colleens go, she's very convincing and boasts a believable brogue. "Stephen Gabis, the renowned dialect coach, was the man who got me ready. We worked together for a full month before our rehearsals began. He came throughout and gave me notes. We worked really hard, and I'm incredibly grateful to him."

Rosemary was fun for her to play. "I had never encountered a character like that in my life in any medium. I loved that she was passionate and pure and ferocious and knowing. I loved every minute of it. It's just exciting finally to get to opening night, and we're able to celebrate. Now, I just get to do a run of a Broadway show."


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