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Local actress starring in SD Rep romantic comedy

Actress Carla Harting.
( / Courtesy photo)

It’s early on a Thursday afternoon and Leucadia resident Carla Harting is on her way to rehearsals for “Outside Mullingar,” a San Diego Rep play opening on Jan. 21 at the Lyceum Space Theatre. But first, a stop at Starbucks is in order. “Our whole company is getting a cold,” she explains. “I figured I get a chamomile tea with lots of honey.”

For Harting, the show is a reunion of sorts. Growing up in Pennsylvania, she cut her teeth in New York City’s theater scene before heading off to UC San Diego for graduate school where she obtained an MFA in acting. It was during her studies in La Jolla when Harting met a variety of future collaborators, many of whom are also a part of the production of “Outside Mullingar.”

“You develop relationships with people you trust and work with,” said the actress. “The director of the play, Todd Salovey, was a teacher when I was at UCSD. My co-star, Manny Fernandes, was an undergrad student when I was there as well.”

Written by acclaimed playwright John Patrick Shanley (the creative force behind a wide variety of plays such as “Moonstruck” and “Doubt,” both of which were later turned into Oscar-winning films), “Outside Mullingar” is a departure for the writer. For one, the story is based in the Irish countryside so it’s his first play set outside the United States.

“It’s really a homage to his native roots,” says Harting of the story. “It’s about two families that live side by side in neighboring farms in a very small town. We start with the funeral of my father and how that affects all of the characters in the play and what’s next.”

Despite the play being billed as a romantic comedy, Harting says that while it’s funny, it’s about real issues and is not fluff.

“It’s about real things like your parents getting older and dying, as well as wondering if your opportunities at love have passed you by,” she notes. “What’s so redemptive about the piece is we see these people really trying to find their way.”

To realistically convey the life of an Irish family, the production brought in a vocal coach who hails from Dublin to help the cast nail their regional accents. The recent storms that have swept through San Diego have also helped the company imagine they’re deep in Ireland. “The other day we were rehearsing with the rain coming down and our vocal coach was like, ‘This is what it’s like to actually be in Ireland.’”

Above all, Harting says “Outside Mullingar” is a heartwarming, sweet and (at 90 minutes) short play.

“I’ve been hearing amazing buzz,” she points out, still sipping on her chamomile tea.”It’s one of thee most produced plays in the U.S. right now, being done all over the country, and I can see why.”

“Outside Mullingar” runs from Jan. 21 to Feb. 14, with an official opening night slated for Jan. 27. Tickets can be ordered in-person at the REP’s box office, online at www.sdrep.org or by calling 619-544-1000.


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