Stones in His Pockets

a kate west review
by Marie Jones
directed by Zeljko Djukic
a TUTA Theatre West Production
at The Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
August 19 - September 17, 2001
contact (323) 960-7822 or Plays411

Olivier-award winning "Stones in His Pockets" originally premiered in Ireland in 1996, depicting a small Irish town taken over by a Hollywood film crew and the resulting conflicts that would inevitably arise. The latest version, actually showcased in Hollywood, remains true to the original story.

Andrew Friedman and Jerry Richardson play multiple characters, zipping through personalities and accents at a break-neck speed, reminiscent of a similar two-person show, "Greater Tuna" (set in the American South). While "Tuna" has more defined transitions, "Stones" runs through its plots of characters so fast that at first it is a bit difficult to follow. Once you get the hang of it, however, (watch the changing handkerchiefs), the story makes much more sense. It helps that Marie Jones wrote some compelling dialogue, with convincing drama between the characters. Although it would be awfully nice if more time could be spent on some of the characters, especially the ones with significant life changing events. It's still interesting, but would be even more so if we were able to invest just that much more.

That said, Friedman and Richardson do an excellent job of keeping it all together. They handle the accents fine and are able to switch back and forth between a dizzying amount of personalities (young, old, male, female, you name it) like the seasoned professionals they are. Their range of emotions in such quick changes is impressive as well, so kudos to them both for a great display of versatility. They are definitely a good team and work terrifically well with each other. And the obvious comfort level and chemistry between them is really nice to see. Director Zeljko Djukic must have worked long hours getting all those characters straightened out for everyone. Natasha Djukic’s minimalist set works with the quick mood and scene changes, as that seems to be the most utilitarian, and the same can be said for costuming. There is virtually no time for set or costume changing within the manic piece, so that’s that.

The essential story is that of Charlie and Jake, two Irish extras on location in their home town during an American film shoot and all the variety of people they interact with, from all walks of life. Of course there are some cultural misunderstandings and always the underlying Irish national weariness of being the constant underdog. Again, it is initially tricky to follow what's going on until you understand the transitions between all the people. Sad Irish laments happen, with some flashes of American disdain. Some of the characters are more dimensional than others, and again could really use some fleshing out. The behind-the-scenes drama of a play-within-a-play is always catchy though and it's fun to kind of see the inner workings of a big budget studio set. From the standpoint of a play anyway. The film terminology is fairly correct, and as an added bonus, they talk about cows a lot too.
Do these two countries finally come together in united understanding at the end? Well, that wouldn’t be very realistic, would it? So no, things pretty much continue as they are, but the plight of the little people, the extras and underdogs, gets a little spotlight. Big pictures are made of up of tiny points of view, literally and figuratively, and “Stones” attempts to capture this, from the other side of the screen. Good acting and lyrical writing help that along and the audience seems to respond well to the onstage energy. It’s running one more weekend, so be sure and catch it at the Zephyr in good ‘ol Hollywood. Nice job, guys - there's a reason you're Ovation recommended.

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