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Hughes borrows Barrow for 8 'Blues' Mondays

She didn't mention talent, though one clearly would need that in abundance to have a resume as varied and interesting as hers.

In recent years, Hughes has starred in movies with Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone, has executive produced a film in which she played a leading role and has appeared in episodes of marquee TV shows. She has also, since 2003, performed her own one-woman show in cities on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recently, "Belfast Blues" played seven times to a packed Brian Friel Theater at Queen's University in the title city in December. That success gave her an idea.

"It was in my system again," she said, "and people in New York had been asking me about it, so I thought I'd put it on here again."

So she will appear on stage at the Barrow Street Theatre in next Monday's sold-out show and the seven subsequent Mondays through the end of April.

"It's very exciting and very scary," she said of appearing on the set of the hit revival of Thornton Wilder's classic "Our Town," which has been playing at the off-Broadway venue Tuesdays through Sundays for the past 12 months.

"Belfast Blues" was first staged in a 35-seat theatre that had once been a Los Angeles shoe shop. It ran for 15 weeks. She'd come a long way since she was cast in 1984 in a NBC Movie of the Week, "Children of the Crossfire." She moved to the city in 1989, got a degree at UCLA and stayed 16 years.

Hughes flew her mother - who is a character in the play as is the actor's late father -- the 6,000 miles to L.A. for the opening of "Belfast Blues." She then brought it back to West Belfast, and later to Galway, London and back to L.A.

It tells the story of the first 18 years of her life, some of which were spent in the since demolished Divis Flats.

"There are 24 characters, but it explores that world through the eyes of a young girl," she said.

"You don't have to be a Catholic from West Belfast to enjoy it," said Hughes, who was born in 1970 and is the second youngest of six children.

Her family and community liked it, which meant a great deal to her. "That made me feel that I had permission to tell the story wherever I went," Hughes said. Normally, as an artist she wouldn't require that. "But it was about a specific place at a specific time," she explained.

It was important, too, that the groups of people who traveled in on buses from the Shankill Road, "on the other side of fence," also enjoyed it.

Hughes argued that an Irish sense of humor is key to the play's appeal. "You can't really tell a story about war without laughter, because people wouldn't want to watch it," she said.

The show led to film work, specifically opposite Stillone in "Rocky Balboa." Said Hughes: "That happened because the casting director saw 'Belfast Blues.' She saw something in that performance she thought would absolutely work playing a working-class Philadelphia girl as the new love interest for Rocky."

The news that she got that part came as a welcome silver lining just days after she'd heard that plans for a Broadway production of "Shining City," with its playwright Conor McPherson directing, had fallen through. "That was heartbreaking," said Hughes, who was due to star in the show. When it was rescheduled, a new director enlisted an entirely different cast.

Hughes has more recently played in Eastwood's critically acclaimed "Gran Torino." However, she had decided before the recent film roles came her way to move to New York.

"L.A. is a very strange place if you decide not to become part of the factory. I was difficult to cast because I look like a real person," she said. "I didn't and wouldn't buy into the idea of changing how I look -- by starving myself or having plastic surgery, which is a huge part of that culture."

She cited other familiar complaints: the "monotony of one season" and the fact that one has to drive everywhere.

In any case, New York is more central for her.

She will soon begin work on a project that is inspired by the South African work "Truth in Translation." It will be staged in Belfast later in the year.

"We have an ensemble of 10 Northern Irish actors," she said. "We'll be work-shopping and developing the piece over the next couple of months."

Another Northern Ireland focus is writer Abbie Spallen, whose work she admires greatly. In 2009 she was executive producer for the film version of Spallen's "Pumpgirl." In it, she reprised the role of Sinead, the wife of a man involved with a woman who pumps gas. When she played it at the Manhattan Theater Club in December 2007, the New York Times' Caryn James called it a "glorious performance."

Geraldine Hughes's biggest ambitions concern the New York stage. "I'd really, really love to have a beautiful part on Broadway," she said. "A big role. That would be an experience of a lifetime."

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For tickets for "Belfast Blues," directed by Carol Kane, go to www.smarttix.com or call (212) 868-4444. The Barrow Street Theatre box office is located at 27 Barrow Street and 7th Avenue South in the West Village, 1 block south of Christopher Street.