Lyric Stage Company's Stones in His Pockets is billed as "the madcap story of a rural Irish village turned upside down" by the arrival of a Hollywood film crew. What could be better? Irish accents! Movie people! Fun! What's more, the art on the program features a big, wet cow-nose. And for a little while, it seems the show will be like scrolling through the comedy section on Netflix.
The play was written in 1996 by Marie Jones for the DubbleJoint Theatre Company in Ireland, and it features two male actors playing roughly a dozen parts: extras, movie stars, women, children, parents, teachers, and one callous British director. The result is something like Wedding Crashers, but with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn playing all the parts and crashing a film shoot instead of a wedding.
Like Wilson and Vaughn, Daniel Berger-Jones and Phil Tayler make a truly dynamic duo, carrying Stones through a raucously fun first act. It's a joy to watch the two work through Jones's lively and genuine script; their comedic timing is so sharp the show seems like a choreographed dance at times. With punch lines piling high, the play continues in this fashion, only to deliver a walloping emotional blow in the act's final lines. Never has the intermission rush to the lavatory been more sedate.
While the second act is predictably morose, the actors manage not to lose much of their manic energy. Stones delivers an increasingly heavy message (rewards in life often go to the less deserving), but it's padded with a cushy layer of physical humor and moved forward by smart, sincere dialogue. And just when the device of two actors playing a whole town begins to get a little tiring, the play gracefully buoys itself up to a joyful conclusion that feels earned.
Lyric's production is a satisfying combination of the work of director Courtney O'Connor, two talented actors, one very dedicated dialect coach (Nina Zendejas), and a design team with a sense of subtlety and elegance. It asks us to ponder life's bitter ironies by pitting a close-knit Irish community against some of Hollywood's most self-indulgent asshats. Not a bad tradeoff.
Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St, Boston :: Through March 16 :: $25-$58 :: 617.585.5678 or lyricstage.com