The San Diego Repertory Theatre’s fourth production of its 40th anniversary season, Outside Mullingar, comes with everything but four-leaf clovers sprinkling down from the rafters. There’s a cast of four sporting Irish brogues of varying degrees of authenticity; three musicians on stage playing reels and ruminate-over-your-ale folk songs from the Emerald Isle; even U2 piped in before the show as audience members settle into their seats. Playwright John Patrick Shanley’s one-act romance directed at the Rep by Todd Salovey is oh-so-very-Irish, from the brooding, death-obsessed first half of the 95-minute production through the robust (and even a little weird) love story that occupies the second half.
That first half ultimately disposes of the old and dying Tony Reilly (a resonant Mike Genovese) and also old and dying Aoife Muldoon (Ellen Crawford), leaving behind Tony’s awkward but big-hearted middle-aged son Anthony (Manny Fernandes) and Aoife’s headstrong, fortyish daughter Rosemary (Carla Harting) to fall uneasily but inevitably in love. That’s when the tone of the proceedings shifts from squabbling and morbid (though the last scene between Anthony and his father is very moving) to snappy, even saucy— remember, it was Shanley who wrote that hot-blooded love story Moonstruck. Understandably, this is the more enjoyable portion of Outside Mullingar, though Anthony’s expressed reason to Rosemary about why he hasn’t pursued her with all due ardor is a true what-the-eff plot development.
Fernandes, performing at the Rep for the first time in 16 years, is sympathetic and affable in the role of the hapless, under-confident Anthony, though he’s nearly bulldozed by Harting’s petite but strident Rosemary. Their chemistry seems still somewhat on the Bunsen Burner.
The live music that intersects changing scenes (provided with pub-crawl friendliness by Jim Mooney, Alicia Previn and Richard Tibbits) as well as Sherrice Mojgani’s flickering projection designs that evoke rural Ireland make Outside Mullingar a comfortable—and comforting—hour and a half, even when its characters are in strife.
Outside Mullingar runs through Feb. 21 in the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Space, downtown. $33-$66. sdrep.org
Tell Me on a Sunday: Actress Bets Malone stars in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about a young Brit looking for love in the U.S. Directed by James Vasquez, it opens Feb. 5 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.biz
The Book of Moron: Robert Dubac plays multiple roles in this one-man show exploring the hypocrisies he finds in the media, politics, religion and more. It happens Feb. 9 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Coyote in a Fence : Based on a true story, Bruce Graham’s play about two very different death row inmates challenges audiences to reconsider guilt and innocence. It runs through Feb. 6 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
The Realish Housewives of San Diego : A parody of the self-absorbed ladies of the Bravo network series of shows, but with a local spin. Developed by a creative team out of The Second City improv troupe, it runs through Feb. 7 at the Balboa Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush : This world premiere play sees the famous British sleuth traveling to Alaska in an attempt to prove a client’s innocence. Written by Joseph Vass, it runs through Feb. 14 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Nerd : Larry Shue’s comedy about a geeky architect whose life gets a little more exciting when an old comrade shows up at his door. Directed by Robert Smyth, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
When the Rain Stops Falling : This multi-generational drama centers on Gabriel York, who fears that a fish falling from the sky will bring the end of the world. Presented by Cygnet Theatre Company, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Outside Mullingar : Written by award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, this acclaimed romcom set in rural Ireland tells the story of two 40-something neighbors falling in love despite their families feuding. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Lyceum Space in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
The Last Five Years : This romantic musical tells the story of a writer and an actress by working backward through their entire relationship through song. Written by Jason Robert Brown, it runs through Feb. 21 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Poway. powpac.org
Guards at the Taj : A new black comedy about two Taj Mahal guards whose faith is tested after a ghoulish encounter. Written by Rajiv Joseph, it runs through Feb. 28 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
The Metromaniacs : This new David Ives comedy centers on an 18th Century Parisian poet who falls in love with a famous poetess, not realizing that she is actually a he. Naturally, hilarity ensues. Presented in association with Shakespeare Theatre Company, it runs through March 6 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Sugar : Based on the screenplay of Some Like it Hot , this musical is about two unemployed musicians who disguise themselves as women in order to hide from the Chicago mob. Adapted by Peter Stone, it runs through March 6 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com