Stones in His Pockets

CoHo Productions at the CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, 220-2646, Through June 26

T he U.S. has a bad habit of romanticizing the hell out of Ireland. Every Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis film will back this up, with the Irish appearing one-dimensionally as the hard-working, stoic salt of the earth. Ireland, it seems, is America's crazy uncle Paddy, who dresses like James Joyce, dances like Michael Flatley, and drinks 'til the wee wee hours of the morn.

Stones in His Pockets looks at that intersection between Yankee and Irish culture, where a Hollywood film production takes over a small, Irish sea village. Charlie (Peter Handy) is a recently unemployed drifter, a stranger in the tiny town. Jake (Andrew Hickman) the affable bullshit artist takes Charlie under his wing as they work as extras on the film set. For 40 pounds a day, work on the movie set is better than factory work, or living on the dole. Charlie and Jake take a long look at the irony of a movie about the plight of the working-class Ireland that itself exploits the working class.

Unfortunately, like their fictional counterparts, Handy and Hickman seem overworked. In addition to their turns as the two main characters, the two young actors take on 15 more characters, weaving through dialects, genders, and nationalities. In the hands of Shakespearean geniuses and vaudevillian ghosts, the minimal cast device can be amazing, but for everyone else it feels gimmicky. Handy and Hickman have their two main characters down pat--they wear the characters like old shoes. It's when they branch out they grow thin and weary.

I'm not sure why the set is decorated with Irish flags, or the program includes a 12,000-year summary of Irish history, or the lyrics to a Sinead O'Connor song. Perhaps to make the play feelÉ more Irish? In a way the irony is too much, with Americans performing as Irish people complaining about how American actors butcher Irish accents, all in front of a pair of Irish flags draped boringly on the walls.

Stones in His Pockets is, at its core, an intelligent look at the relationship between Hollywood and the rest of the world. Check it out toward the end of its run on June 26. There is room for this play to grow-up and break itself in with more performances. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT