PRINCE RUPERT – “We’re lunatics.”
The phrase could describe its speaker, Michael Gurney, and his Stones In His Pockets fellow cast member Lucas Anders on any given day on the North Coast, but Gurney was specifically referencing this Saturday, Dec. 12, where he and Anders will perform the marathon comedy Stones In His Pockets to the Prince Rupert audience twice in one day.
While it’s not unheard of for stage productions to be performed in an afternoon engagement with an evening performance, this particular challenge brings some unique tasks for its two sole actors in the production.
With a performance already under their belt from Thursday night and three more on Friday and Saturday, the two are on stage for the entire two-hour duration of the play, with intermission being the only much-needed escape complete with water breaks, catching their breath and generally staying sane.
That last task may be tougher than expected because not only are Gurney and Anders performing as the sole duo in the production, but between the two they’re switching back and forth among 15 different characters.
“It has its challenges for sure – a lot of work in the background to make the flow between characters seem fluid,” Anders said in an interview three mere days before their first show.
“In theatre you typically lose yourself in a character. The challenge here is just when you’ve lost yourself in a character, you have to lose yourself in another character and lay aside all those feelings and frustrations and take on another accent or another gender,” Gurney added.
The two will be tackling Irish, American, Scottish, French, Cockney English and even female roles — often at the blink of an eye.
The subject matter of Stones In His Pockets are what drew Anders to the production in the first place.
“I first saw this play about 10 years ago in Edmonton at the Citadel Theatre and it was just one of those plays that really spoke to me … When I saw it, it just changed me. It was a really transformative experience in terms of something that moves you in a way you aren’t really anticipating. It speaks to the dreamer in a lot of us,” Anders said.
“It’s very similar to Prince Rupert in that there’s a lot of outside forces coming in and working against people and there’s this conflict between industry and life.”
Gurney immediately saw the connection as well when Anders informed him of the plot back in late summer.
“I tracked down the script and was immediately enraptured. Like Lucas, I saw connections with Prince Rupert, specifically between the idea of traditional ways of life and how those are affected, change and grow to adapt along what is in this play, capitalism … So there’s tension there and in the midst of that, it’s a story of friendship and overcoming emotional odds and the junk that life throws at you. In the end, friendship triumphs over that conflict between these major outside forces,” Gurney said.
“It’s a comedy deeply rooted in the human experience, where sometimes bad things happen, but like all human beings, we can laugh about these things.”
This duo is not stopping with entertaining North Coast audiences. Gurney and Anders are Edmonton-bound next August to participate in the prestigious Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.
The event takes applicants from the city, around the country and even beyond Canada’s borders — and Rupert’s own Harbour Theatre duo have made the cut.
“It’s something that’s not easy to get into. I’ve applied three times and this is the first time we’ve been accepted,” Anders said.
The two will have to fine-tune their comedy to fit the 90-minute time limit of the festival, but they’re already excited to wow audiences on an even bigger stage.
The duo is also grateful for all the hard work of their supporting crew behind the scenes to help bring the play “from two peoples’ idea to a reality.”
You can catch Stones In His Pockets this Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and again Saturday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. at the Lester Centre of the Arts.
Tickets are available at Cook’s Jewellers or the Lester Centre box office.