ALBANY, N.Y. >> John Patrick Shanley is a writer who is equally well-known for both his screenplay of the film "Moonstruck" and the play (and film) "Doubt: A Modern Parable." One is a romantic-comedy about an Italian-American couple in America. The other is about a nun who suspects a priest is a pedophile. If nothing else, the two works show the diversity of this American writer.
On Tuesday, area audiences get to experience even more of Shanley's range when, after previews Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Capital Repertory Theatre officially opens a production of his play, "Outside Mullingar." It's another romantic-comedy about a rural Irish couple who, nearing their 40s, have to realize and admit they have feelings for each other.
"Outside Mullingar" also shows the popularity of Shanley as a writer. "Moonstruck" and "Doubt" were enormously popular. According to American Theatre magazine "Outside Mullingar" has been one of the most frequently produced plays in the United States for two years running. It was the second most popular play in the 2014 season and placed third last year in 2015.
Kim Stauffer, who plays Rosemary Molloy in the Capital Rep production, finds something else to admire in Shanley's stories. "One thing they have in common is they each have a strong woman as a central character," she said in a recent telephone interview.
Playing strong women is something Stuffer does well. She was last seen at Capital Rep in "Taming of the Shrew." At Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield she's played Elizabeth Proctor in "The Crucible" and Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire."
In New York City she's played Beatrice in "All's Well That Ends Well," Lady Macbeth and the title role in "Mary Stuart," all with New York Classical Theatre.
When she describes Rosemary in "Outside Mullingar" you tend to listen and pay attention, especially when she says, "She has great strength that comes from having such clarity about what she wants."
Stauffer went on to explain Rosemary wants to marry her shy, introverted neighbor, Anthony Reilly (David Kenner).
"She knew she would marry him from the day she was six years old and he pushed her down. How's that for having a singular focus?"
She laughs and then explains that her work as an actress is to show Rosemary's determined personality as a positive attribute. She describes her character as a person who is always "balancing her strength with her vulnerability." After a pause, she gropes for the right word and says, "Passionate. She's a very passionate woman. She doesn't show it and even tries to hide it. But she's as caring as she is determined. This is not a one-dimensional woman."
The situation in "Outside Mullingar" is that Anthony's father, Tony (Kenneth Kimmins), is dying and because he believes his son is not a man of the earth, the father threatens to leave the family farm to a nephew living in the United States. The farm borders the farm on which Rosemary and her elderly mother live.
One of the reasons Rosemary and Anthony have not got together is a family dispute over a piece of property connecting the two farms. The play attempts to resolve the family squabbles by uniting the two younger adults.
When not on stage Stauffer is teaching acting and movement at the University at Albany. Besides an MA in acting, she has a BA in social work, which served her well when was head of Barrington Stage's Playwright Mentoring Project, working with underserved youths in the Berkshires.
The Columbia County resident says she is able to relate to Rosemary's love of her land because of her own connection to upstate New York and the Berkshires. "It's not only beautiful here but there is theater going on 12 months a year. It's a gift."
What: "Outside Mullingar" by John Patrick Shanley. Directed by Margaret Mancinelli-Cahill
Who: Capital Repertory Theatre
Where: 111 N. Pearl St., Albany, N.Y.
When: Friday through Oct. 16 (press opening, Sept. 27). Evenings — Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8. Matinees — Saturday at 3; Sunday at 2; additional matinee Oct. 5 at 2
How: (518) 445-7469; capitalrep.org