Stones in His Pocket
Two actors expand themselves into 15 characters in this Dignity Players performance
Stones in His Pockets, now at Dignity Players, has a wonderful premise: an American film crew comes back to the Irish town where The Quiet Man was filmed decades ago to make another movie. The return provides for a clash of cultures and nationalities, heightened by the incongruities of filmmaking and stereotypical star and fan behaviors.
Stones in His Pockets was written by Marie Jones, a writer celebrated in Ireland and the United Kingdom and deserving of greater American attention. Her radio and TV work is evident in her writing, which evokes vivid mental pictures. She asks two actors to create 15 distinct personalities in a show that is an actor’s dream — or nightmare.
Director Darice Clewell cast the show well with Ben Carr and Scott Nichols taking every advantage to create unique characters with changes in body language, vocal intonation and merely a hint of a costume difference (a quickly changed hat, tie or scarf). The actors rehearsed twice as long as common; given the intensity of the task before them, that is both understandable and well worth it.
Stones begins as a comedy with the Irish extras in the new film, including the last remaining extra from The Quiet Man, and the Hollywood stars and crew. The first act ends with a somber turn that explains the title. The second act is more serious, but the light touch returns for an uplifting ending.
The shifts in tone are challenging enough in a normal show. Stones in His Pockets has the added challenge of relying on only two actors to convey both those shifts and all the characters.
Scott Nichols is utterly convincing in conveying very fast and dramatic changes. He covers the landscape from the American director to Charlie, the Irish wanna-be-playwright extra, from the female film star to the Scottish bodyguard — plus several other characters.
Ben Carr takes the roles of Jake, an Irishman returning after realizing he didn’t like living in America, plus the older Quiet Man extra, a Cockney crew member, a dialect coach and others. Jake is the central character; Charlie and all the other characters stand with him or in opposition to him. Carr changes his physicality more than Nichols, and his reactions to a tragedy are very moving.
The shades of accents (Irish to Scottish to Cockney) aren’t spot-on. The important Irish dancing scene is joyful but not as strong as it should be. But neither minimizes the overall positive effect of the show.
A play like this suits Dignity Players’ preference for minimal set and costuming. A few well-painted screens with images of Ireland, film motifs and, of course, John Wayne, a countertop, a clothing hat stand — and that takes care of the set.
It is interesting to see how two actors can expand themselves to portray 15 characters, then pull inward to convey simple, basic truths: Loyalty and friendships are important, life and death both matter and a humorous outlook is the only way to go.
Dignity Players prove themselves once again with this ambitious undertaking, which shows that while their themes may be serious, they understand the power of humor in their mission: theatre for change.
Stage manager: Herb Elkin. Costume designer: Jean Beall. Set designer: Laurie Nolan. Sound designer: Mickey Lund. Technician: Julien Jacques.
Playing June 7-9 at 8pm. Dignity Players Theatre, Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Dubois Rd., Annapolis. $20 FSa; $15 Th: 410-266-8044 x127; www.dignityplayers.org.