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Stones in His Pockets

What have Tim Orr and Jonathan Rhys Williams got in their pocketses?

What have Tim Orr and Jonathan Rhys Williams got in their pocketses?

Rated 4.0

Playwright Marie Jones wrote the Irish comedy/drama Stones in His Pockets after her experiences working as a film extra for movies shot on location in her native Ireland. To her dismay, she found Hollywood claimed it was looking for the real deal but really wanted stereotypes of Irish caps, twinkling eyes and ruddy drinkers.

In Stones, we meet a frustrated Hollywood movie crew looking for authenticity in a remote Irish town. The crew declares that the hired extras’ Irish jigs aren’t jiggy enough and that the local brogues are too brogue-y. These locals just aren’t “lucky charming.”

What makes Jones’ play so unique, beyond the well-written, witty script and fast-paced dialogue, is that two actors portray a dozen characters of various ages, genders and nationalities. Capital Stage has found two performers up to the challenge: in-house Artistic Associate Jonathan Rhys Williams and former Foothill Theatre Company regular Timothy Orr. The two display seamless teamwork, not only in their overlapping dialogue and split-second character morphing, but also in their speedy physical interactions.

The set is simple: dozens of shoes lined up in front of a backdrop painted with an Irish landscape. When changing characters, the actors reach for the shoes, as well as hats, coats and scarves in wardrobe racks on each side of the stage. Packing crates become tables, bars and cars.

The play’s primary characters, Jake and Charlie, are two down-and-out Irishmen thankful for the job of acting like Irishmen. Charlie is a hopeful wanderer with past troubles and a script in his pocket, while Jake is a disillusioned local lad who tried life in New York but is now plugging away in his village. Other characters include an American actress who tries to perfect her Irish accent in a local pub (played with aplomb by Williams) and the only remaining extra from John Wayne’s The Quiet Man (portrayed by Orr). Priests, film assistants and local lads also make appearances.

The first half is played for laughs, showcasing the absurdities of the situation. When tragedy strikes, the second half reveals bitterness toward the town’s exploitation. Director Christine Nicholson keeps both emotions in balance.