“Stones in His Pockets”: when Hollywood invaded Ireland

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Scene from
Scene from "Stones in his Pockets" with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan. All photos by T. Charles Erickson

McCarter Theatre Center has come up with a winner with its current production of Stones in His Pockets, a play of heartbreaking truth mixed with Irish wit. Playwright Marie Jones’ Olivier award-winning play delivers a slice of contemporary life, spinning a tale of the people of a small Irish village in County Kerry and the Hollywood film crew who uses the location and the people for its own needs.

Scene from "Stones in his Pockets" with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan. All photos by T. Charles Erickson
Scene from “Stones in his Pockets” with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. All photos by T. Charles Erickson.

Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn endure the long and often boring task of working as movie extras — although the ₤40 per day paid them helps ease their discomfort. The movie’s cast and crew include the privileged leading lady; the producer’s daughter who is also 3rd assistant director; the Irish 1st assistant director who has no respect for his countrymen; and the director for whom everything is subordinate to getting the production in on time and under budget. Charlie, for all his dislike of the film crew, has written a script and is sure of making his fortune, if he could only get anyone on the crew to read it. Things come to a head with a tragedy involving one of Jake’s cousins, which brings the values of the two worlds into stark contrast.

Scene from "Stones in his Pockets" with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Scene from “Stones in his Pockets” with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Remarkably, all the roles are played by two actors — Garrett Lombard as Charlie and Aaron Monaghan as Jake. Together they portray some 15 characters of varying ages, both sexes, and both nationalities, using the most basic of props and costume pieces combined with unique physical movements to bring each character to life. It is stage magic at its best when the two actors literally spin in and out of various personas to create multi-character scenes before the audience’s eyes. In this exhibition of virtuosity, they are expertly guided by award-winning director Lindsay Posner and movement consultant Kali Quinn. To all of this is added the spectacularly simple stage design, imaginative projection designs, and just-right costume designs of Beowulf Boritt, whose work was last seen at McCarter for Murder on the Orient Express.

This play gives an engrossing view of the differences between the Hollywood version of the “real” Ireland and the actual life of the Irish villagers, striking a perfect balance of naturalistic drama and situation-driven comedy. If you get a chance to go — and you really should — be sure to stay for the filmed credits, projected on the back wall of the stage. You owe it to yourselves to see Stones in His Pockets before its all-too-short run ends at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.

Stones in His Pockets is presented by the McCarter Theatre Center at the Berlind Theatre on the campus of Princeton University through February 11, 2018. For tickets and information, visit mccarter.orgreview.