Entertainment Hour’s own Staci Morin recently had the pleasure of speaking with the very eloquent and worldly talent Dearbhla Molloy of Outside Mullingar. Dearbhla , an Irish actress of stage, film and television has been performing for 40 years. A veteran of Broadway and West End stages, Dearbhla earned a Tony nomination for Dancing at Lughnasa and also holds two Drama Desk Awards, a Theatre World Special Award, a London Critics Award, two Irish Theatre Awards, and a U.S. Audie Award. Here is what transpired between Staci and Dearbhla during a short, delightful conversation on a snowy day in February.
First of all let me say that my colleague and I thoroughly enjoyed Outside Mullingar as well as your performance in the show. Everything was fantastic- can you tell me what drew you to this piece?
Really it was John Patrick Shanley’s writing, his language. I wanted to see if I could make that language work for me. Because it’s not realistic, it’s poetic language. He kind of invented it slightly, in the same way that Synge invented language and Shaw attenuated language and O’Casey did and Martin McDonagh. He is following a long line of Irish writers. I love language so I wanted to see if I could make that work.
What has been your favorite experience with this piece so far?
I like ensemble work. It’s the only interesting work that there is really because it’s like doing a concert, like doing a symphony, a piece of music. Where everybody is serving the music itself, or in this case the play itself. They’re not serving their own ego. The four of us work terrifically well together and that’s an accident, that’s not always guaranteed. It’s just something to do with chemistry and you’re lucky if it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But this time it did so that’s good. It’s a really, really enjoyable part of it and continues to be a really enjoyable part of it. We’re a very close group of people.
Playing the character of Aoife have you faced any challenges with this particular role?
No I didn’t. My mother is one of five sisters, so there’s always been somebody to base an Irish character on. So I based this on an in-law. That was fun to do, to get a hold of the core of her. She was a woman who had a great sense of humor but you never quite knew if she meant to be funny or not. So you could look at her and think she was extremely cross but in fact as you got to know her she was quite enjoying being a character who played being extremely cross.
During the talk back Brían F.O’Byrne mentioned the difference between an Irish play and an Irish American play. Being Irish and having done multiple Irish and American plays how would you classify Outside Mullingar?
It’s certainly an Irish-American play for a whole lot of reasons, not least is a view of the parts of Ireland that might not contemporaneously be recognized in Ireland. It’s John Patrick Shanley’s very specific view of Irishness, if you like. When I first read the play I thought if this hatched 50 years ago or 60 years ago it ‘s not the contemporary Ireland that I recognize. But that doesn’t annul it in any way or make it any the less, it’s just how he chose to frame it.
Is it true that John Patrick Shanley was involved during the rehearsal process of Outside Mullingar?
He was, very much so. He was there for 3-3 1/2weeks. I thought he always did that with all his plays. But Brían said that during Doubt he was hardly there at all. One day I asked John why he had chosen to stay at rehearsal with this play(I thought it will be interesting to know the answer). In fact, he said the reason that he stayed was because he knew when he turned the play in it wasn’t finished. He was there to write and he did write as we went along. So he would watch what we were doing and then he’d write lines to fill in gaps that he saw. And I benefited particularly from that, or Aoife befitted particularly from that, because he gave me a lot of (what I like to call) “grace notes”. They were the things that allowed you, the audience, to know that she wasn’t just a funny abrasive next door neighbor but had some depth to her. So all that stuff about faith and the references to the death of her husband and all those kind of things he added in during rehearsal. It made the character much more interesting to play and gave her dimension.
Having also worked on the Britain premier of Shanley’s Doubt, were there any standout similarities or differences with this process?
For me they felt very different because it felt like in Doubt, as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, you kind of have to play her in a particular way. She can’t have any doubts because if she does it doesn’t earn the end of the play. The very last line of the play is “I have doubt”, so I felt that I didn’t have a huge amount of choice in the way that I could play it. Whereas in this play, I felt I could have made this character anything I wanted to. She isn’t dictated by her story because her story doesn’t carry the play, it just supports the play. So it gave me much more freedom.
It’s about love. It’s absolutely about love. And I know that’s an almost hackneyed thing to say now, but it’s absolutely true. It’s a love story not only between two older-young people (Older meaning people in their 40’s, which is not usual. Most love stories are about people in their 20’s), but it’s also a love story between a father and a son. Love is completely at the heart of it and I think that’s why audiences respond to it.
Where does the character of Aoife fit into that pulse?
Much like Tony who is worried about his son Anthony, Aoife is concerned about her daughter and her daughter’s future. Once she realizes that nothing will stop her daughter from getting Anthony, she has to trust that it will work out. There is a comfort in that because she knows that her daughter usually gets what she wants. She does have faith that it will eventually work out and her daughter will find love. So it’s the same. She has the same kind of faith in the future that Tony does which he manifests in that speech on the death bed. He said ‘I have faith that you’ll find love’.
That sums up all of my questions, is there anything you would like to share with the readers of Entertainment Hour?
Just that Outside Mullingar seems to me to be a really good value play in terms of an evening at the theatre. It’s both funny and moving and heartwarming and its feel good in the best possible sense. It’s not like eating candy; it’s got some depth to it as well. And it’s got some lovely language, so I think it’s got everything. And it’s got terrific performances at the center of it!
Outside Mullingar opened January 23rd,2014 and is now playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. To read Staci Morin’s review on Outside Mullingar please click here: Outside Mullingar ReviewPhotos By: Joan Marcus, Walter McBride
Interview By: Staci Morin