Irish ‘Pockets’ full of wit
Apple Tree Theatre debuts comedy about chasing the American Dream
Irish comedy relies
on America bashing
“Stones in His Pockets”
out of four
Apple Tree Theatre, 595 Elm Place, Suite 210, Highland Park
7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays and 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 16 (no evening show Oct. 2)
1 hour 40 minutes with in-termission
$40 to $45 ($5 senior and student discount)
Adult language and themes
Three types of audiences will likely enjoy Apple Tree Theatre’s production of “Stones in His Pockets”: those whose admiration for adept acting and skillful staging transcends content; those whose politics incline them toward America-bashing; and those who love anything and everything Irish.
Like so many Irish plays, this 1996 dark comedy by Belfast playwright Marie Jones, winner of the London Evening Standard Theatre and Olivier awards, features dry and witty one-liners, down-and-out characters and many scenes set in a pub. The action revolves around Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, two 30-ish Irish extras hired by a Hollywood movie company filming in a picturesque but poor farming community in County Kerry.
Charlie’s passing through, on the bum after his Ballycastle video store went bust due to competition from the Irish arm of Blockbuster. Jake, a town native, has just returned from several years of seeking his fortune in America, which left him homesick and penniless — “back on the dole and living with my mum.”
At first, both are glad for the pay of 40 pounds a day (about $61) and the chance to be part of the glamorous life of the famous actors and film crew. Optimistic Charlie’s written a film script he hopes to interest somebody in. Jake is pleased and flattered by the interest the movie’s beautiful leading lady appears to take in him.
Matters turn increasingly dark and turbulent, however, after the suicide foretold by the play’s title. As the characters confront the differences between the movies and real life, “Stones” leans heavily and discomfortingly on the intrusiveness and boorishness of American popular and corporate culture, before lapsing into a hard-to-believe, feelgood finish that has its protagonists reaching with renewed hope for the American Dream.
The play’s most unique and interesting feature is its presentation as a two-man show. Local actors Will Clinger and John Hoogenakker skillfully portray all the characters, slipping smoothly from one role to the next with only changes of cadence, posture and body language to mark the switch.
Clinger drops from the tall, dour Jake into Mickey, a local codger living on the glory of his long-ago experience as an extra in “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne. Hoogenakker transforms from engaging Charlie into the sexy Hollywood star Caroline Giovanni and the suave film director. Artfully directed by Steve Scott, they morph from harried film crew members into sad townspeople with aplomb and a keen use of accents.
The clever performances offer the main reason to see this intimate production.