John Patrick Shanley is one of the most respected playwrights working today, with credits including Doubt (which was adapted into a movie with Meryl Streep in 2008) and Moonstruck (which won a few Oscars in 1987).
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Unfortunately, his newest play, Outside Mullingar, now playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, isn’t great. The story, set in rural Ireland, follows two middle-aged neighbors and their respective widowed parents as they try to figure out life, love and who will own the farm property they share.
The story feels itinerant, more like a sequence of scenes than a cogent narrative. The strongest part is the last 30 or so minutes, wherein Anthony (Dan Donohue) and Rosemary (Jessica Collins) dance around admitting their feelings for each other. Under Randall Arney’s direction, the romantic tension is palpable and delightful.
But even that scene is hobbled by a weird twist in logic that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t serve the characters or narrative particularly well. Despite running only about 90 minutes, the play drags, and the overlong set changes between scenes don't help. Shanley is a talented writer, but this play feels half-baked.
The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; through Dec. 20. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.