Without costumes, props or even much of a set, Jay O'Callahan shows you the world: a cornfield on the Ohio River; shafts of sunlight skirting the clouds over Massachusetts; three apple carts trundling down a country road one brisk fall morning in New England.
And he introduces you to some of the world's more colorful characters: a happily mad prophet named Dancin' Ezekiel; a carnivorous, potbellied bank president named Z.A. Caddock; and Edna Robinson, a proud independent woman who finds fleeting romance on her way to indomitable spinsterhood.
Jay O'Callahan is a storyteller. In his return engagement at the Round House Theater, he's managing, as if by magic, to create a universe you can see, feel, smell and almost taste. Slight of build, he's a curly-headed, red-bearded fellow who can become, with a wave of his hand, a plump old maid.
O'Callahan calls his current program "Village Heroes": four richly textured stories that he either wrote from scratch, like "The Lighthouse Man," or adapted from folktales, like "H,ary J,anos," a yarn about a heroic Hungarian hussar.
The stories range from fanciful and fantastic -- as with the two just mentioned -- to realistic, or at least possible -- as with "Edna Robinson," about a 30ish store clerk who has a chaste fling with a hobo named Blueberry Jack.
But they all reflect an unflagging belief in the wisdom of plain people and a love of the simple virtues: small towns, neighborhood taverns, general stores, family farms. If you want the dark side of urban existence, or tart observations on modern neuroses, don't go looking here. JAY O'CALLAHAN -- At the Round House Theater through September 18. "Village Heroes" Wednesday through Sunday; O'Callahan will present a different program, "Raspberris and Old Favorites," for two matinee performances only, this Saturday and next at 2.