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

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24 Jan 2014

John Patrick Shanley
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

How did he happen on such an offbeat title? It turns out to be something he has been saying all his life: "Anytime somebody asked, 'Well, where's you're family's farm?', I'd say, 'It's outside Mullingar.' Mullingar is the capital of County Westmeath, and it's about 11 kilometers from the farm. My cousin, Brandon Shanley, who was born on that farm and raised on that farm, was sitting next to me tonight — he was my date — and he said, 'You know, anytime anybody asks me where I am, I always start by saying, 'Well, I'm outside Mullingar.' It's a prosaic title for a poetic play."

His shy-guy protagonist is likewise drawn from real life. "My cousin Anthony lives on that farm in Ireland, and he's never married, and he's a great guy. I know him. I knew his father, Tony, and his mother, Mary — the same names that are in the play — and there are two gates to get on to the farm. Somebody else owned that piece of land, and each time I asked about it, they'd change the subject. So I made up a story."

O'Byrne's wife, Heather Goldenhersh (like him, a Tony nominee for Doubt), arrived with his mom, Nancy O'Byrne, in from Ireland. One of their Tony-winning co-stars from Doubt was in attendance: Adriane Lenox; the other, Cherry Jones, was otherwise engaged in The Glass Menagerie. And lots of Shanley came over from Ireland, too.

Among the playwrights present and accounted for were Matthew Lopez, Sharr White (whose Snow Geese last occupied the Friedman and whose next, Annapurna, premieres with The New Group on Palm Sunday), Paul Rudnick, Nell Benjamin (who's working on part two of the trilogy she started with The Explorer's Club) and three of Shanley's Pulitzer Prize peers: Nilo Cruz, Lynn Nottage and Alfred Uhry.

Also: Julianna Margulies; director Michael Wilson (whose Lifetime edition of Cicely Tyson's Tony-winning Broadway vehicle, The Trip to Bountiful, just announced an airdate of March 8); Peter Jacobson (who still lives in New York but commutes like crazy to the West Coast for films and television); Kate Jennings Grant and Jan Maxwell, both with upcoming plays they can't discuss at the moment (even when I told them America wanted to know); Brian d'Arcy James, who'll do an episode of Paul Giametti's TV series "Hoke," in February; Kathryn Meisle and Derek Smith, a prize-winning pair of Red Bull Theatre vets; Željko Ivanek; one of the Good People who previously inhabited the Friedman, Tate Donovan, now bound the next day for London to shoot the resumed "24" series with Kiefer Sutherland; director Walter Bobbie and his Tony-winning Venus in Fur discovery, Nina Arianda, who's returning to the stage March 18 in MTC's production of David Grimm's Tales from Red Vienna); Veanne Cox, who has snared a couple of multi-lingual roles in An American in Paris — in Paris!; Edward Hibbert, who will reprise his 54 Below club-act, Can't Something Be Done?, one more time Jan. 28; actor Robert Emmet Lunney, who just wrote a three-character play he wants to call — Leonard Cohen permitting — Famous Blue Raincoat; Evan Jonigkeit and Zosia Mamet, a carryover duo from last year's Really Really; Anne Kaufman Schneider; set designer Santo Loquasto; producer Scott Landis and wife, director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall and Gregg Edelman.

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