Stones in His Pockets
By David A. Rosenberg
“If you’ve got it, doesn’t matter if you’re nobody; talent is talent, it wins through in the end,” says one character in the clever, deft, wondrously acted though cliché-ridden “Stones in His Pockets.” If nothing else, Marie Jones’ prize-winning comedy opens up the well of talent many actors possess but few get to practice.
At Yale Rep, under the zippy direction of Evan Yionoulis, two actors give performances of such versatility and depth that they’re sure to be remembered at awards’ time. Fred Arsenault and Euan Morton play what seem like dozens of characters, male and female, old and young, reticent and egotistical, capturing lightning in a bottle. In a flicker, they magically conjure other selves.
Basically, Arsenault is Jake Quinn, Morton is Charlie Conlon, friends recruited to be extras in a Hollywood film being shot in Ireland. On one side, it’s the usual entourage: martinet director, glamorous star and various factotums. On the other, it’s Jake and Charlie, both lured by the promise of fame and fortune.
Arsenault and Morton play not only Jake and Quinn but an ambitious assistant director, tough bodyguard, scheming star and various locals, including a veteran of John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” and a young man whose tragic fate gives “Stones” its title.
Jones is writing not only about these individuals but the town itself, a small village upended by sudden attention. Of course the Hollywood types, making a film called “The Quiet Valley” and not understanding the townspeople’s customs, condescend to them. Of course, the locals, not understanding the film crew, are both wise and envious. Nothing new here.
The characters are sketched-in types. Yet, there may be no single moment more telling in any show right now than Morton’s transformation from Charlie to the film’s alluring star, Caroline Giovanni. Flipping one side of his sweater over his shoulder, altering his stance and walk, Morton, morphing into Caroline, paints her not as a caricature but as a bright, scheming woman using her wiles.
Not every impersonation works: Arsenault’s depiction of the assistant stage manager makes the character look like an effeminate man instead of a young girl. And the villagers come across as more colorful and defined than the film-makers. Although the evening reaches its apogee in a hilarious series of filmed out-takes at the beginning of Act Two, underlying the comedy is the sadness of death and rejection. “When it’s over, then what?” asks Jake about their moment in the sun. These are lost souls, living with their parents, needing to escape, dreaming of success.
“Everything he wanted was somewhere else,” says one of the locals. For Yale audiences these days, everything they want is with these actors, on that stage.