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by Neil W. McCabe

July 12, 2006

For one North Cambridge native, the trip home was the commute to work as he walked onto the set of the new film "On Broadway" on 20 Hollis St.

"It was such a good feeling to be able to come back home and work with so many of my friends," said Lance Greene, who grew up on Fairfield Street.

The movie is about a Boston Irish carpenter, who resolves to write a play about his late uncle at the man's funeral, said Greene, a 1987 graduate of MatignonHigh School.

Greene plays Billy O'Toole, the cousin and best friend of the main character, Jack O'Toole, played by Joe McIntyre, from the New Kids on the Block.

The play inside the movie "God Willing," was actually performed in 1997 in the backroom of Davis Square's The Burren pub, he said.

In the movie The Burren scenes were shot at its sister pub, The Skellig, in Waltham, where the part of the bartender is played by Robert Wahlberg, the brother of the New Kids'Donnie.

Both the play and the movie are the brainchild of David McLaughlin, who Green said has a gift for capturing the spirit of the Boston Irish family.

One of the characteristics that make the Boston Irish a distinct sub-culture is their use of language and humor, McLaughlin said.

The language is very colorful and full of metaphors, he said. "Humor is used to both avoid and engage emotions," he said.

It creates a spiral that is played out in the script. The same humor that pushes emotional involvement away has a way of bringing it back when the time is right to deal with it, he said.

Greene, who is also one of the film's producers, said he admires how McLaughlin wove the characters together.

"Of the 20 speaking parts, 14 have critical scenes that are really vital to the telling of the story."

"The film is about love, life and friendshipand sticking to your dreams," he said.

The scene shot at 20 Hollis St. was the post-funeral gathering in the house's adjoined living room and dining room. The front hallway leading past those two rooms and into the production command center in the kitchen was paved with heavy cables and wires.

Sitting in front of the video monitors and consoles was McLaughlin. Surrounding him were members of the production crew dressed mostly in jeans and tee-shirts.

On the other side of the reality wall, the actors were dark suits, white shirts, black ties and dresses. The actors were surrounded by active and brimming ashtrays and a stunning array of adult beverages.

Before the cameras rolled for a specific take, there is a hubbub of activity and conversations. When McLaughlin is ready, he gives out his instructions, then climbs into his chair, "Start on: Whose rough, mighty hands."

All talking stopped. Cell phones were put to sleep. On both sides of the reality wall, everyone stilled. Then, abruptly, came the voice of an old man in a throaty Irish brogue: "Whose rough, mighty hands."

The scene had begun.

McLaughlin said the play "God Willing" was inspired by an actual family wake, which he fictionalized.

Another actor coming home to be a part of the movie is Mike O'Malley, who starred for six years on the CBS sitcom "Yes, Dear." The actor, who is also known for his character, Rick, for ESPN commercials, was born in Somerville on Halloween 1969.

"This role is a departure from things I have done in the past," he said.

"I've known Dave for years and I did a reading of the screenplay with him at Venice Beach, Calif." O'Malley plays Jack's older brother, Father Rolie O'Toole.

O'Malley said he liked playing a priest and while he took his cues more from Spencer Tracy than Bing Crosby, he mostly drew on real priests he has known in his own life.

McLaughlin said he also has local ties. The director and his wife, Beth n McNamara lived for a time on Prentiss Street and his wife has many connections to North Cambridge and the parish of St. John the Evangelist.

When it played for a two-month, sold-out run in The Burren's backroom, it was an experience of the actors interacting with the audience members, McLaughlin said. "It is a feeling that is lost in a larger theater and it is much more informal in the atmosphere of a pub."

What makes the feedback from the audience especially useful is when someone points outs something about the lighting or picks up on an important line that was considered a throw-away line, he said.

If all goes well the film will be in the theaters by the spring of 2007, said Kristofer W. Meyer, another one of the film's producers. The movie, which finished shooting May 26, has a budget of roughly $1 million.

All of the actors were paid on a union wage scale approved by the Screen Actors Guild for independent projects of this side, he said.

Meyer said the house on Hollis Street, as well as other locations around Boston were secured by Christopher Griffin of Griffin Properties at 2267 Massachusetts Ave. "Chris was crucial getting us properties around town."

Another big help was Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves. The mayor, his staff and Maryellen Carvello worked with the production company to get the right permits and get through the paperwork, he said. "Ken was great."

The movie was shot on 16mm film, which with new technology, McLaughlin scans into a computer, he said. The new process combines the quality image of film with all of the editing and enhancement possibilities of digital.

Now that the shooting is done, McLaughlin said he is preparing the final print in time for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival this fall at faculties donated by his alma mater BostonCollege.

In the meantime, if you were thinking about calling Griffin Properties to put an offer in on that house on Hollis, you are too late. It is all ready under agreement.