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The Firehouse Brewing Theatre will end its 2015-2016 season with "Outside Mullingar," which opens Friday and runs until April 30.

The show, which debuted on Broadway in 2014, was written by John Patrick Shanley, the playwright and screenwriter behind "Moonstruck" (for which he won an Oscar), "Doubt" (for which he won a Tony and Pulitzer Prize), and the cult film "Joe Versus the Volcano." The show is a romantic-comedy set in rural Ireland, following lovelorn farmers Anthony and Rosemary as they try to overcome their widowed parents' bitter land feud. 

Theater manager and artistic director Jan Swank said that he appreciated the gentle humor of the show.

"I'm Irish, and I love Irish plays, but what pleased me about this is that it's not a downer," Swank said. "It's not like so many contemporary Irish plays examining the dark side of nature. It's a nice, gentle comedy about real, rural Irish people."

Swank, who is directing the show, will also play one of those rural Irish people in his Firehouse acting debut as Tony, Anthony's father. In addition, Swank's wife, Jill, will play Oeife, Rosemary's mother and Tony's rival in the land feud.

"These farms have been in their families for 120 years, and they've known each other all of their lives," Swank said. "There's a grudge beyond the land, where the son pushed down the daughter when they were 6 years old, but they want to be romantically involved, and the circumstances never worked out right."

Swank described the comedy of the show as being a kind of human comedy that comes from funny stories of rivalries and reactions.

"Tony and Oeife have known each other 30 years and arguing over the right of way to a road for all of those 30 years," Swank said. "They way they react, how they want to pass the farms along to their children in the best way, isn't always the logical way."

Swank also hinted at the stranger humor that comes from Tony and Anthony's relationship.

"His father calls him strange, and part of the humor is that the rest of the people don't quite realize how," Swank said. "'He's stranger than you know' is one of my lines."

Swank said that though he and his wife have not acted together in the Firehouse, they have a history of working together on stage, including in a production of "The Threepenny Opera" on their wedding night.

"I enjoy working with her because she's really good, simple as that," Swank said. "She's dependable, she knows what's going on, and because of that I know what's going to happen."

The two will star alongside Jace Brock as Anthony and Heather Pickering as Rosemary. Swank has worked with both before, and praised Pickering's facility for accents and Brock's growth as an actor over the years.

"She has a wonderful Irish accent, and he's grown conscientious as an actor," Swank said. 

That rapport will be evident as the four work with Shanley's lyrical, lovely language and plotting.

"He's a simple writer, which allows the characterizations and plot to proceed in a 'what would you do' kind of thing," Swank said. "The people are so real and conversational, it's like people you'd know in South Dakota if you went home for Thanksgiving. We're all very attached to it."

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Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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