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A CurtainUp Review
Stones In His Pockets

Stones In His Pockets On Broadway -- and Beyond
" Keep your head down and stay where they put you" Mickey, County Kerry's "celebrity" extra (a survivor of The Quiet Man) advised Jake and Charlie who ignore his advice to hilarious effect. London theater goers were still flocking to Stones In His Pockets when its versatile star duo has crossed the ocean to Broadway's Golden Theater. My London colleague, Lizzie Loveridge, covered the show's details and delights quite thoroughly - and now that. Once I saw it for myself, I found myself in agreement with her review. Thus, rather than repeat myself, I confined myself to some second thoughts and let the original (at the end of the text in this gray box) speak for the show. In 2004, the show's strong theatrical legs took it to Los Angeles where Laura Hitchcock added some comments -- posted below mine-- on how it farres these days in yet another location.
Stones In His Pockets on Broadway by Elyse Sommer
The show has not gotten swallowed up on a Broadway stage and Campion and Hill are in the same fine form as when Lizzie saw them. The simple but clever backdrop of a skyscape framed by a film reel fits the stage beautifully. The soundtrack of previews and advertisements preceding the latest offering at a local cinema is an amusing and subtle introduction to the tour-de-force role Marie Jones has written for the dynamic duo. After seeing Campion and Hill's perform, as you should, you won't be surprised to learn that they've been previously teamed up as Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett's Waiting For Godot. Marcel Marceau fans will also recognize that great mime's influence on both actors' style.

Lizzie did not mention whether the rousing step-dancing number in which Charlie and Jake bravely and hilariously present a Riverdance-pas-de-deux was a show stopper in London -- it deservedly brought the house down at the performance I attended. My only regret was the absence of an encore. As for Lizzie's comment that she felt it would be "curmudgeonly" to fault the plot's insertion of a tragedy, I'm willing to don my own curmudgeon's hat. The playwright's attempt to make this a real play with some emotional themes is admirable and at times poignant, but it does put a strain on the humor which is its strong suite. This becomes a real fault line given the fact that, at almost two and a half hours, the show is way too long. That said, Jones's script and its gifted interpreters are good enough to make Stones In His Pockets a must see -- make that a must enjoy.

You might also want to check up CurtainUp's review of Marie Jones' first play to make it to New York (Off-Broadway), A Night In November and Martin McDonagh's is under-appreciated The Cripple of Inishmaan which also portrayed an Irish community affected by the making of a film -- in this case the making of Robert Flaherty's historic documentary Man of Aran.
Directed by Ian McElhinney
Cast: Seán Campion, Conleth Hill
Set Design: Jack Kirwan
Lighting Design: James C. McFetridge
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Golden, 252 W. 45th St., (Broadway/8th Av) 239-6200
From 3/23/01; opened 4/01/01
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer

STONES IN HIS POCKETS at the The Mark Taper Forum
By Laura Hitchcock

Marie Jones's dark comedy about the commercial colonization of Ireland by an American film comedy is more than a stone's throw from London and New York. As Brian Friel did in Translations, his play about the English effort to replace Irish place names with its own, Jones slyly comments on the overlords from Hollywood from the point of view of two disillusioned young Irishmen, in this case extras in the movie.

The two Irish-American actors who play all the parts are JD Cullum who anchors Jake, just returned from a disappointing foray to an America whose streets weren't paved with gold, and Barry McEvoy as Charlie, whose local video store was buried by a Blockbuster behemoth but who came away with a screenplay in his pocket.

The burly McEvoy plays movie star Caroline Giovanni with a remarkable delicate lewdness that projects character not caricature. It offsets his defeated Charlie who contrasts with the charismatic energy of Cullum's Jake. Both men shine in their different ways. McEvoy finds the humor and distinctive personality in roles as diverse as John, the accent coach, and debates with himself in two different roles as Clem, the Director, who confronts Charlie over the prospects of Charlie's script.

Cullum creates more flamboyant characterizations as 70-year-old Mickey, the oldest surviving extra from The Quiet Man, and jittery fragile young Sean Harkin, whose suicide by drowning gives the play its title. His humiliation and rejection by Caroline prove to be the last straw in a lifetime of disappointments which began when his father lost the land that was to be his. The suicide gives the second act a heft and depth that the clever versatility of the first act lacks. Jake and Charlie's final decision to take their fates into their own hands provides an upbeat ending, even if its only because the hope lies in the decision to make a choice, not the choice itself.

Neel Keller, CTG's new Associate Producer, has directed with sensitivity and panache. The set design keynotes the production with a branch of a tree taped to a steel film support. None of the Hollywood jokes are lost on the Los Angeles audience, particularly the one that the film shouldn't be depressing. "That's why we have theatre."

Marie Jones has given us an insider's look, not only at Ireland and the latest facet of its centuries-long commercial colonization, but of ourselves seen through Irish eyes which are not always smiling. STONES IN HIS POCKETS at the The Mark Taper Forum
Director: Neel Keller
Cast: JD Cullum (Jake and others), Barry McEvoy (Charlie and others)
Set Design: Richard Hoover
Lighting Design: Rand Ryan
Costume Design: Candice Cain
Sound Design: Jon Gottlieb
Musical Staging: Ken Roht
Running Time: Two hours including one intermission
Running Dates: June 10-July 18, 2004
Where: The Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, Phone: (213) 628-2772.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on June 9, 2004.

-- the original review of Stones In His Pockets
By Lizzie Loveridge

Fresh from Belfast where it was sweeping the Irish Times best production and best actor awards via London's Fringe theatre, The Tricycle, is this witty and charming new play from Marie Jones, Stones in His Pockets. It is sheer delight!

The play is set in Ireland, in a little village in County Kerry where a succession of Hollywood film crews and their entourage descend to make films. This of course is an excellent economic opportunity for the wily Irishmen of the neighbourhood, many of whom secure roles as film extras for the princely sum of 40 ($60) a day. The play follows two days in the life of two of these extras, Charlie and Jake. Jake is plucked from obscurity by the glamorous Caroline Giovanni, the film's female lead to give her tuition in er um . local accents.

Funny enough, but when I tell you that the role of Caroline is played by the actor who also plays Charlie, you will start to appreciate the comedy. In fact at least thirteen parts are taken by this pair of actors. There are of course the two extras, Charlie and Jake, Mickey, the stooped old hand extra who once worked with John Wayne, Simon the film's assistant director who has to meet deadlines and budgets and his assistant, the preening and pouting Ashley, daughter of a famous film director. There is Sean, Jake's cousin, (in fact Jake's relations make up a fair proportion of the characters), a young boy refused a part in the film, Fin his brother, John the voice coach, Clem, round shouldered, the main director, and Gerard the priest and some of the characters as children. Initially the actors leave the stage to return as a different character using posture in the main to delineate the switch but as the play gets more and more hectic a simple turn is all that is allowed. It is all so clever!

Conleth Hill gives a performance which is superb. With just two actors playing all these roles, with nairy a costume change, I was mesmerised. Conleth Hill plays Jack, a pigeon chested, splay legged Security Guard and Clem the hunched director and Caroline whose hallmark is to adjust her earings and tuck her hair behind her ear. Hill has such excellent changes of posture that this play should be compulsory viewing for drama students. Sean Campion often finds himself the "straight man" to Hill's comedy. The humour reminded me of the Beyond The Fringe team of Alan Bennet, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller of the 1960s - slick and professional and hugely enjoyable.

The set is simple, a backdrop of clouds in a sprocket holed frame and a long line of shoes. A trunk and a box serve as desk, table, bar, counter. The play opens with the the Pathe News cockerel and the soundtrack of some local cinema advertisements to put us in the mood.

It would be curmudgeonly of me to grumble at the plot in which a tragedy is contrived in an attempt to inject some pathos into the play, to remind us that this is Hollywood and not real life. But the author does make a serious point about the danger of letting ourselves be carried away by pipe dreams and how money and fame can interfere with a community by bringing false hope. Talking about Mickey, "He's watched his whole way of life fall apart and now he's some backdrop for an American movie."

This is the funniest play I have seen in London this year and I highly recommend it.

Written by Marie Jones
Directed by Ian McElhinney

With: Conleth Hill, Sean Campion
Set Design: Jack Kirwan
Lighting Design: James McFetridge
Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes with an interval
Transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre St Martin's Lane London WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square)

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 29th May 2000 performance at the New Ambassadors Theatre, West Street London WC2
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