Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Theater review: Stage West’s Stones in his Pockets brings high-energy laughs
Just try to keep pace with this multifaceted farce.
FORT WORTH Stones in His Pockets is an artistic exploration of the connections and encounters that occur when rural Ireland meets flashy Hollywood. Since Northern Ireland’s leading playwright, Marie Jones penned the script in 1996, this play has met with favorable reviews, becoming the most successful stage play to come out of her country, and enjoyed a stint on Broadway, earning three Tony Award nominations in 2001, and was just recently made into a film. The action takes place in a small town in Ireland, where a Hollywood production crew has descended to create a movie. The show requires extras and the local townsfolk are more than happy to be a part of the production, and earn a little cash in the process.
The play itself employs the talents of only two actors, who find themselves playing multiple parts to encompass the 15 male and female characters revealed through the action. Stage West’s production of Stones in His Pockets is an enjoyable effort at providing entertainment to an audience while challenging the actors and showcasing their talent. It is always a treat to witness acting at its most challenging and this cast and crew’s expertise made for a very entertaining evening.
The set design by Jim Covault is simplistic. It consists of a black box stage with two boxes, a bench, a post, a backdrop painted to resemble a film strip of an Irish countryside, and a row of assorted footwear, ranging from bright red pumps to clunky fishing boots. These shoes are meant to represent the myriad of characters the actors portray. This set is the traditional set design accompanying the play and Covault’s representation fulfills its responsibility to enhance the production without becoming a dominant character in itself.
Knowing a little about the background of the play prior to attending the opening performance, I was ready to see how these two actors would meet the challenge of swift character changes and accents. The pair works well together and keeps energy throughout the play. Each of them clearly took the challenge seriously and manages to create easily discernible characters, for the most part, and steps into and out of those characters with skill.
Although each actor plays multiple characters, the play focuses on the lives of two individuals, Jake and Charlie, and their experiences with the film production and interactions with other townspeople.
Jakie Cabe, whose primary role is Jake, performs his share of the roles with high energy and swift transitions. Watching him transition from Jake to the others, sometimes with a spin, other times with a change in posture or facial expression is entertaining in itself. Only occasionally are those transitions difficult to follow, his choice of mannerisms and clear involvement with the characters he portrays makes it easy to follow the story line and enjoy the quirks of each role he represents.
Patrick Bynane, in the primary role of Charlie, is highly effective at portraying a simple man whose motives and life, in general, are displayed for the world to see. He also often transitions roles with a quick spin which makes it easier for the audience to understand the changes in character. Especially fun are Bynane’s Caroline interacting with Cabe’s Jake.
Both actors do a superb job changing accents, attitudes, and posturing to represent each of the characters with the importance they deserve. Although I sometimes found it difficult to keep up with the fast pace, the skill of these two actors, in light of the difficult task set before them, is evident.
Another important feature of the production is the lighting, which was designed by Michael O’Brien. Clever use of lighting changes assist in the audience’s perception of character transitions and flashback scenes.
Costumes by Jim Covault and Peggy Kruger-O’Brien remain the same throughout the play, with both actors wearing drab slacks, vests, jackets and the occasional Hogan-style hat. Even these simple costumes are utilized by the actors in their character transitions, with the removal or placement of hats, jackets, and shoes at the proper times.
Most of the play’s action takes place through dialogue, so audiences must pay close attention to what is taking place. There is strong language in this production, so patrons will need to consider that when making a decision to see the show.
This play gives its audience a glimpse into life in a country that is outside of our borders, yet intertwined with our heritage. Stage West’s production is definitely worth spending an entertaining couple of hours and enjoying the laughter.
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