Must the show always go on? That’s one of the questions raised by “Stones in His Pocket,” a two-man, 15-character comedy currently playing at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.
In Marie Jones’ 1999 play, a big-budget movie is being made in a small town in County Kerry, Ireland, and many of the local residents are being employed as extras. One of them dies; normally, everyone in town would go to the funeral. But the movie’s director wants them to keep on filming, because if they don’t finish on time, he says, “we are fucked.”
“That’s life,” one of the locals responds, with a shrug.
“Do you realize that each day we film it costs at least a quarter of a million dollars?”
“Then how come we get only 40 pound a day?”
A more common theatrical device would have the characters going on some kind of journey, and having their core assumptions about life challenged. “Stones in His Pockets” is a little different in that, its character are, mainly, staying put, and the different way of life comes to them (in the form of the movie set). It’s still, essentially, a clash-of-cultures story, with a the locals responding to those crazy movie folks with wry, world-weary humor.
Actors Aaron Monaghan and Garrett Lombard play the two main characters, Jake and Charlie, who are both extras in the movie, and are both floundering a bit in their lives. Charlie is an aspiring screenwriter; Jake has just got back from a disastrous trip to New York. Scenes of them acting in the movie — cleverly lit to signify that these scenes are indeed part of a movie-within-the-play — are played for laughs, with Jake and Charlie gamely but not very skillfully trying to do what’s asked of them.
Monaghan and Lombard also play all the other characters in the play — about a dozen of them, including the film’s glamorous, female star and frantic, eager-to-please assistant directors. The stage is basically a blank slate — a green field, with equipment boxes strewn about.
It fun to watch the the actors do their lightning-fast character changes, but I didn’t find the story particularly involving, or the characters particularly well-drawn. Jake and Charlie were both too bland, and the minor characters too one-dimensional.
I did like the surprise-twist ending, through, which turned everything upside down. (Sorry, but I think it’s best not to say more than that.) I think “Stones in His Pockets,” in fact, might be more enjoyable and satisfying when seen for the second time, when one has a clearer idea of the big picture that Jones is trying to create.
“Stones in His Pockets” will be presented at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, through Feb. 11; visit mccarter.org.
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