If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
Yale Rep Offers “Stones in His Pockets”
Two talented actors playing a dozen characters between them enthrall for over two hours in “Stones in His Pockets”, Marie Jones’ Irish comedy currently on stage at the Yale Repertory Theatre. With this latest production, the winning streak of fine theatre produced by the New Haven venue continues.
A huge blue scrim tilted at an angle dominates the stage at Yale and perfectly sets the quirky tone of the humorous tale to follow. A recent Tony nominee, “Stones in His Pockets” is set in Ireland’s scenic County Kerry as it recounts the story of Charlie and Jake (Euan Morton and Fred Arsenault), two locals hired as extras for a Hollywood movie being filmed on location. The film is called “The Quiet Valley”, a witty nod to both “The Quiet Man” and “How Green Was My Valley”, and Jones’ sly script cleverly skewers the superficial Hollywood types whose idealized version of this rural village keeps the locals in stitches.
“Stones in His Pockets” affords two actors the complete joy of multiple performance without gallons of make-up or elaborate costume changes. Morton and Arsenault parade an entire cast of characters from crotchety locals (one is the last surviving extra from “The Quiet Man”) to Caroline Giovanni, the pampered Hollywood star of the movie. We are given a cross-section of rich characters with the subtlest of changes. Mr. Morton astonishes by softening his voice and wearing his sweater slightly off the shoulder to play Caroline, an hilarious role that becomes unexpectedly moving by curtain. Equally fine is Mr. Arsenault who plays Aisling, the ambitious and condescending second Assistant Director, with supreme superiority and self-importance.
There is also the treat of seeing the actors at the start of act two in a series of filmed outtakes from “The Quiet Valley”. This uproarious collection of scenes highlight terribly sincere acting (mostly by Caroline) against a backdrop of cliched pastoral country scenes filled with cows (a delightful running gag). Best of all, the play concludes with one of the most rousing and greatly satisfying curtain calls ever devised. It is clear that director Evan Yionoulis is totally in sync with her actors from start to finish.
There is a caveat, however, to the general good review here. Jones’ script does seem to stretch an idea to its breaking point and the play would be well-served at a trimmer 90 minutes losing the intermission. At two hours the play seems padded and repetitive and it also would benefit from a more intimate venue than the roomy Yale stage. Edward T. Morris seems to realize this by some odd choices in his scenic design chief among them the baffling addition of a tall, orange cherry picker on stage. It’s a set piece that really serves little purpose except to fill space. His projection work throughout the play, though, is superb as is Nikki Delhomme’s costuming, Solomon Weisbard’s lighting and Matt Otto’s sound design.
All said, “Stones in His Pockets” remains a tour de force for a pair of actors ready for its challenges. At Yale, the team of Morton and Arsenault could not be better.
“Stones in His Pockets” continues at the Yale Repertory Theatre through February 16. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 203.432.1234 or visit: www.yalerep.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.