Theater Review | Thru March 30 Stones in His Pockets, brought to its base synopsis, can be summarized as a play that demonstrates how living in Ireland sucks for the Irish, especially when the "American dream" - embodied in Hollywood - is flaunted in rural Irish faces. Lack of opportunity for the Irish is reiterated. This, however, makes for good comedy.

Dave Ruark as Jake Quinn and Kurt Owens as Charlie Conlon in "Stones in His Pocket"

Primarily a laugh-out-loud piece of work, this show does have its dismal side, but it is touched upon rather superfluously. Act 1 consists of setting up the relationship between the two main characters, Charlie (Kurt Owens) and Jake (Dave Ruark), and letting the audience get used to two men playing 15 roles. The premise is that a Hollywood movie is being shot in a small Irish town. Most of the locals are acting as extras for the film. Charlie is a wanderer, and has pitched his tent for the duration of the shooting. Jake has recently returned from America with a case of "homesickness." Throughout the formation of their friendship, Owens and Ruark transition into a multitude of other characters, such as the leading lady, femme fatale Caroline; the bubbly young assistant, Ashley; the pretentious director, Rory; and so on. It is a wonderful exercise for actors, and requires talent that Ruark and Owens have in spades. It takes a bit to get used to this almost split-personality-esque quality, but after a while, you get the hang of it. Before the close of Act 1, the audience is suddenly confronted with a tragedy involving a character we have barely begun to know. You sympathize only in the way you sympathize with a tragedy on the news: You feel pity, then life goes on. But this event sets up the plot for the rest of the show: It"s a vehicle to get things moving towards an end. It gives the characters something to rally behind. There is an imbalance between the two acts, but finally giving the characters more direction is a welcome happenstance. Direction (Bryan Fonseca), blocking and the performances of Ruark and Owens deserve congratulations for taking on this challenging piece. Though not for an audience looking for easy laughs - the Irish accents, phrases and character morphing, combined with a plot that takes time to get going, can be confusing - with a little work, it is rewarding. Stones in His Pockets continues through March 30 at the Phoenix Theatre; call 635-PLAY for reservations.

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