“Outside Mullingar” is a title that might be somewhat unfamiliar to local theater audiences — but not for long.
The play, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 2014, lacks the blockbuster title and reputation of bigger shows. But that only makes it more of a sleeper and makes it an ideal production for the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, said Michael Bigelow Dixon, who is directing the play.
“It’s going to play very well at in intimate theater like the Commonweal,” Dixon said. “That’s going to be much to the play’s advantage.”
“Outside Mullingar,” written by John Patrick Shanley (“Moonstruck,” “Doubt”), takes place in rural Ireland, where two middle-aged people who have grown up as neighbors struggle with their feelings for each other. The play opens Saturday.
“It’s a curious little fable, this play,” Dixon said. “The characters are quirky and eccentric. I think this is Shanley’s Irish ‘Moonstruck.’ The characters are caught up in a second chance for love.”
The Commonweal production features Commonweal company members Adrienne Sweeney, Jeremy van Meter and Hal Cropp, and Minneapolis-based Miriam Monasch, who makes her Commonweal debut.
Shanley said he wrote the play after visiting relatives in Ireland, where he was struck by what he called the “vocal culture” of rural Ireland.
“He has a great ear for the gift of gab,” Dixon said. “The language is extremely colorful.”
The rural setting of the play should connect with Lanesboro audiences, Dixon said.
“One of the big messages of the play is there is a transformative power of hard work and nature in the lives of people working on the farm,” he said.
In addition, he said, “There is a father-son, mother-daughter relationship. I think people will recognize much of the dynamic that goes on there.”
This is the sixth play Dixon, who teaches at Transylvania University in Kentucky, has directed at the Commonweal. Previous productions include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Philadelphia Story” and “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”
As for “Outside Mullingar,” Dixon said, “It’s affirming and they gravitate at the Commonweal toward plays that are affirming.”
“Outside Mullingar” is one part of a busy fall season at the Commonweal, which is also continuing its run of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” through Sept. 28, and “Charley’s Aunt” through Oct. 26.
Theater fans, in fact, have plenty of options this fall. The Rochester Repertory Theatre opens its season Friday with “Making God Laugh,” which continues through Sept. 26. Tickets: 507-289-1737.
Rochester Civic Theatre has added a Studio Series to its regular schedule of main stage productions. The first play in the new series will be the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Wit,” which opens Oct. 23. Prior to that, the Civic will produce the musical “Catch Me if You Can,” which opens Sept. 18. Tickets: 507-282-8481.