A touch of Irish charm lit up the Lester Centre stage last week with the performance of the tragicomedy Stones in His Pockets.
The 90 minute play is an exercise in careful attention to detail for both the actors and the audience. Two actors play 15 different characters of both genders and speak in several dialects with an exhausting fluidity.
Audience laughter never lingered or else they may have missed what was said next, and who was saying it.
“Extra gives movie star one in a caravan,” said the character Charlie Conlon, played by Michael Gurney, to his friend Jake Quinn, played by Lucas Anders.
The vulgar dialogue isn’t as rough when said with an Irish accent. Both actors mostly pull off the foreign tongue with the odd slip into their flat Canadian accent, but some Blockbuster actors are even guilty of similar slips so it was an impressive feat.
The Irish-written play by Marie Jones is about a Hollywood production that comes to rural County Kerry to film a movie and the local residents are paid to be extras. The scenes toy with humour and gravity.
The exploitation of the extras on their own land and the suicide of Sean Harkin, a confused vice-afflicted teenager who is jilted by Caroline, the American film star, adds a palpable heaviness to the light-hearted atmosphere of the play.
It only took about 10 minutes for the first burst of laughter to emerge from the audience of about 70 people on opening night as they began to digest the mechanics of the non-linear plot line and the multiplicity of characters.
The first scene plopped viewers in medias res with the “lemon meringue pie interrogation” with Gurney, as Charlie, a gentle North Irish man with aspirations to see his amateur movie script make the big screen. As the scenes progressed Gurney became more comfortable as this character. By the final scenes it was easy to sympathize with Charlie as his sweet optimistic composure eroded to frustration.
Gurney’s best asset in this play is his hands. In an attempt to appear tough he balls up his fists when Charlie admits he “can’t take any more knocks, ya hear.” When he transforms into Caroline, the American film star, he fans out his hands and presses them delicately on his silky scarf with over-the-top femininity.
Props, lighting and music are key cues that help the audience follow the switch from character to character. Even the flashback scenes are obvious.
Anders’ main character as Jake Quinn, a native of Country Kerry, pulls off the stereotypical broody impassioned young Irish man. He uses his entire body to become Jake, as well as Aisling, the assistant director, and Mickey, the pipe smoking crooked back elder in the town. He becomes each of his characters so believably that by the final act he appeared on the brink of exhaustion just in time to take the final bow.
The play is ambitious and demands an attentive audience but it’s a worth-while investment for the laughs it offers.