- Stones In His Pockets
- By Marie Jones
- Directed by Kerry Waters Lucas
- Produced by Keegan Theatre’s New Island Project
- Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Can hopes and dreams be dangerous? Stones in His Pockets starts as a witty little satire about a small Irish village used as backdrop for a Hollywood film then evolves into a darker and richer story. In the hands of Keegan Theatre, the play provides solid entertainment although the laughs are handled more successfully than the drama.
Charlie (Eric Lucas) and Jake (Matthew Keenan) are two down on their luck Irishmen who eagerly sign up as film extras for forty quid a day. They provide local color on cue by “looking disposed” or appearing as “defeated, broken men,” hardly a stretch as you learn their personal stories. Charlie is a failed video store owner who still keeps his hopes up and a screenplay in his back pocket. Jake is more depressed following his recent return to Ireland from America, which did not prove to be the land where his dreams came true.
Fortunately, Lucas and Keenan also play thirteen other characters, usually amusingly so, using their physical and vocal talents to adopt various personas in rapid succession. These characters include fellow villagers and an assortment of characters who invade Ireland to film The Quiet Valley, a big budget picture starring the famous Caroline Giovanni.
The portrayal of Caroline Giovanni by Lucas is a major crowd pleaser. She’s an actress who habitually goes native, in this case romanticizing the Irish countryside and the simple, uncomplicated people. Her preening and posing is hilarious, regardless of whether it accompanies her condescending compliments to the locals, her complaints about the difficulty of working as an actress (while earning $6 million a film), or her insecurities about mastering a proper Irish accent.
Other amusing character portrayals by Lucas include Clem, the pompous film director, and Simon, the bullying assistant director who complains that the local cows don’t look Irish enough. Keenan has the most fun with an old stoop-shouldered man named Mickey, who is the only extra still alive who actually worked on The Quiet Man with John Wayne, and a young female assistant named Aisling.
Near the end of the first act the play takes a dark turn that is disquieting, deliberately so. Without divulging the plot twist, it leads to considerable questioning about the value of entertaining unrealistic dreams. As a character named Brother Gerard observes, “Imagination can be a damned curse in this country.”
Eric Lucas is terrific across the board. He has a strong stage presence and a rich voice which adapts easily to the different roles. He has more of the play’s comedic responsibilities, which he handles well while still maintaining a strong sense of character.
The weight of the play’s drama falls more heavily on the role of Jake, who is supposed to be angry at the world in the second act. Keenan has a harder time when the play becomes serious, and his affable stage façade does not easily evolve into showing the darker aspects of Jake’s character or his personal trauma following a somber event. As a result, the tragic elements are not quite as poignant and powerful as they should be.
Director Kerry Waters Lucas keeps the action moving. Lucas and Keenan are entertaining even when simply seated in two directors’ chairs and the audience quickly catches up on the various characters after the initial scenes. While Irish brogues can be difficult to understand, in the hands of these two actors they are charmingly lyrical.
- Running Time: 1:40 with one intermission
- Where: Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Dr., Arlington, VA.
- When: Until August 23, 2008. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM.
- Tickets: $20 adults/$15 students and seniors. For tickets call (703)-892-0202 ext. 2 or email [email protected].