“Stones in His Pockets” at The Warehouse Theatre

This past Friday, Eliza and I got spend a lovely evening enjoying the December show of the Warehouse Theatre’s 2011-2012 Season.  The play was “Stones in His Pockets” by Irish playwright Marie Jones, as directed by Anne Tromsness (the Warehouse Theatre’s Director of Education).

“Stones in His Pockets” is the third performance of the 2011-2012 season and, of all three (including “Metamorphoses” and “The Elephant Man“), this has been my personal favorite so far.  I don’t say this to indicate any lack on the part of the other two shows, but instead to indicate the exception that I feel “Stones in His Pockets” is.

The story in itself is a very human piece.  It deals with the lives of a small Irish town that are intimately impacted by the production of a movie in their vicinity.  Several of the characters in the story are local inhabitants who have been cast as extras in several scenes of the movie.  These characters then interact in various ways and degrees with the main cast and crew of the film being made.  Without giving too much away, the story presents the whole matter with many moments of humor as well as some real tragedy.  All and all the story comes across as grounded and believable, demonstrating a visible disconnect between common people looking for their personal shots at fame and an establishment that is only interested in getting a good shot (and avoiding bad weather).

What really makes “Stones in His Pockets” unique is that only two actors are cast to play the 14 different roles in the play (including two female roles).  There is little to no costume change to indicate the change in characters.  Generally, throughout, the two actors simply twirled around a bit, assumed a different posture and accent, and there was the different character.  It is hard to imagine without seeing it.  Having been made aware that this is how the performance was going to be done prior to the show, I admit my personal skepticism about whether or not it could be successfully pulled off.  And sitting in the theatre during the opening moments of the show, there was about five minutes in which I was not entirely certain which character was which.  Then it flowed so naturally as to be unnoticeable.  Somebody after the show suggested that the way in which we just accepted the different roles is much like how we accept subtitles while watching a movie in a different language; you notice it at first and then you are just drawn into the story and it doesn’t stand out at all.

I cannot describe in entirety how impressive this acting is to me.  As somebody who has performed in several productions in the past I know the challenge that is involved in embodying a character.  I also know the further challenge if you are expected to play multiple parts in a performance (something that is not unheard of, especially for smaller roles).  But to continually be changing characters on and off for two hours of a performance, and staying consistent to the uniqueness of each character, is a real feat.  To this end I have nothing but praise for the two actors in this show, as I think they pulled off the challenge marvelously.

Another bit of praise for the two actors is their ability to manage believable accents throughout.  Accents are always hard to get down.  I have worked with English accents before and while I think I managed reasonably well I know that there are many places where I had a harder time.  Irish accents, while to the unfamiliar may seem generally similar to English accents, are significantly more challenging due to various subtleties and pacing.  While I cannot claim to know if the accents the actors used would convince a pure blood Irishman, they were believable enough to me so as never to be a distraction.  Interestingly, as one of the characters in the play is an American actress portraying an Irish woman in the film, there is a bit of meta-commentary on the whole matter of proper accent portrayal in the show that is quite fantastic.

The show has a very good balance between its sense of humor and those parts that are meant to be serious or sad.  Several times I laughed a lot at the hilarity of the scene, but several other momements produced knots in my throat.  Neither the funny nor the sad moments detract from the others or lessen the overall message of the story.  It is all around a very natural feeling story.

The story is very self-referential.  I mentioned above about the commentary on accents in the story but the meta-ness of it all extends beyond that.  This is not tacky or ridiculous but instead meant to further create a juxtaposition between the differing worlds portrayed within, especially between the Hollywood world and the world of the common Irish villagers.

Like so many of the performances at The Warehouse Theatre the set is minimal.  In fact, I’d say that this show is about the most minimal set I’ve ever seen there.  Really it is just a couple stools, a coat rack, a rolling table (that serves as a table and bar top), a backdrop, and 14 pairs of shoes and boots that, while never worn, serve an obvious purpose (I’ll let you figure it out).  Like the set the costuming is minimal as well, with the actors not really changing their outfits except on the occasion that their character is supposed to be taking off or donning a specific piece of clothing.

All and all the production was wonderful.  The play has a great pacing with nothing feeling too rushed or too lingering.  There is an underlying quality to the play that I can only describe as being “uniquely Irish.”  I have not encountered much else in regards to Irish Theatre, the only other play I can think of off the top of my head being Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot” (which, depending on how you look at it, might not count as being all that Irish).  I have, however, encountered a good number of other Irish stories and movies and all of them, and “Stones in His Pockets” included, have a quality to them that I find instantly recognizable as “Irish.”  The only other stories in which I have encountered a same unique quality are the vast reservoirs of Russian narratives.  Interestingly enough, I find there to be an interesting similarity between both Irish and Russian narratives, which, while not exactly the same, seem to be of a kind of kin to one another.  I suspect (without any real backing evidence) that a lot of this is produced through the likely shared difficulties of life in both Ireland and Russia historically and presently.  People living rough lives in rough places seem to produce a lot of material worthy of a good story.

“Stones in His Pockets” will be running at The Warehouse Theatre until Dec. 17th.  If you are around to catch a show I cannot recommend it enough.  If you don’t get to see it here in Greenville keep an eye out for it elsewhere as I suspect that it is probably worth seeing just about anywhere it is put on (well, as long as the directing and acting are done well, which I suppose is the case in all theatre).

Until next time.

My other two reviews of 2011-2012 Warehouse Theatre performances:

~ by Nathaniel on December 5, 2011.

One Response to ““Stones in His Pockets” at The Warehouse Theatre”

  1. Wow, great review Lord! We really enjoyed seeing this show with you and Eliza. I think this show presented the biggest acting challenge I’ve seen to date. Hats off to Jason Shipman and Thomas Azar.

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