County Kerry, Ireland is known for its picturesque rolling hills, luscious grassy landscape, and cows. So it’s no surprise when Hollywood filmmakers choose this corner of the world to film. Marie Jones’ Olivier Award-winning Stones in His Pockets directed by Lindsay Posner, is a comedy playing at McCarter Theatre telling the story of how filming a movie in a small Irish town affects the lives of the residents.
The Quiet Valley starts production and the team hires locals as extras. Two of them are Jake, who grew up in the town, and Charlie, who’s from a different town and knows the directors couldn’t differentiate his dialect from the others. The female lead, Caroline Giovanni, is having a difficult time speaking the dialect and the First Assistant Director, Simon, keeps barking orders at Aisling, the Third Assistant Director. Add to the mix the town’s “Hollywood” legend, Mickey, the 70-year old who reminds everyone that he is the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man featuring John Wayne, Sean, Jake’s cousin who’s high on cocaine and a slew of other characters and you have a recipe for a physical comedy.
I say this because it’s a two-man show with Garrett Lombard (Charlie) and Obie Award-winner Aaron Monaghan (Jake) tackling a total of over a dozen characters, including those of different nationalities, ages, and genders. They switch roles, quickly changing their gestures, speech patterns, facial expressions, and stature. It’s done in an obvious way, so you’ll know when they change characters, which is perpetual.
What makes Stones in His Pockets amazing is Lombard’s and Monaghan’s abilities to smoothly switch personalities in the blink of an eye and keep the dialogue straight for two acts. They do it so seamlessly and make this feat appear easy. The duo also do it in a manner that the audience instantly recognizes the characters. It’s worth your time just to see them pull this off, but the bonus is this is a good story and it’ll keep you laughing.
Things get a bit dark for a moment since it reveals an ugly side of Hollywood film productions. Appealing to the masses is at times more important than authenticity, so it doesn’t matter if the dialect isn’t perfect. The production crew doesn’t treat extras with the utmost respect, and they unknowingly contribute to a tragedy. Their lack of empathy toward the extras in the aftermath reveals the irony of it all. It’s well written and sends an important message.
Minimalism is this production’s theme, and not only regarding the character count. The set is sparse and doesn’t change, with the exception of Lombard and Monaghan moving around three steamer trunks and occasional videos shown on the back wall. The lighting and ambient sounds also help in changing the mood and setting. This play is the definition of “less is more” and it really lets the script shine. This production’s concept is actually genius. Stones in His Pockets rocks!
Throughout the lobbies of the theater, you can find posters of Irish slang hanging on the walls, which is actually useful if you read them before the performance. Also, if you walk around town, you can spot tie-ins to the play in the form of art installations called “Cows in Our Town” in local businesses courtesy of the Arts Council of Princeton and McCarter Theatre that will run through February 11. By the way, if you post photos of your cow sightings to Instagram using #cowsinourtown, you will have a chance to win tickets to a show!
To add a bit more culture to your experience, join in an old-fashioned Irish “sing-song” session led by members of the Princeton-based Celtic band Shenanigans in the Berlind Theatre Upper Lobby on the following dates:
- Thursday, January 25 at 7 PM
- Saturday, February 3 at 1:30 PM
- Saturday, February 10 at 1:30 PM