note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi
After looking through her program, the woman sitting in front of me turned to her neighbor in amazement and murmured, “Two actors are playing ALL the roles.” Where has this woman been? Plays with multiple characters but few actors pop up nowadays as often as anthem musicals. This kind of budget theatre is fast becoming the norm: producers love them for their low body count; actors love them for the chance to display their versatility (if the actors are not convincingly protean --- and I have seen several try and fail --- the evening can turn deadly). I’m thinking, however, of those playwrights with whole worlds inside them forced by economic necessity to scale down their visions in the hopes of getting their work produced; thus the public will get a WAR AND PEACE in a drop of water instead of a roaring ocean --- oh, it’s theatrical all right but, please, sir, I want some more (actors)….
The amazed woman (see above) and I had been attending a performance of Marie Jones’ award-winning STONES IN HIS POCKETS at the Gloucester Theatre (after completing its run, this production will next move to the Stoneham Theatre). Ms. Jones sketches a wry collision between a Hollywood film crew on location in Ireland and the denizens of County Kerry playing extras not unlike themselves (i.e., poor and starving). The locals have stars in their eyes, the Hollywooders treat them as cattle, and never the twain shall meet. There is pleasure in hearing Ms. Jones’ hands-in-pockets banter and she slyly balances hard reality with celluloid fantasy but the fun dwindles when she buckles down to the plot: a troubled lad who commits suicide after being fired from extra-dom and becomes a heavy symbol of blighted dreams (‘tis he with the stones in his pockets). Should six, or even four, actors be cast in future productions, Ms. Jones’ play would make better visual and verbal sense; as is, you need to keep track of a dozen or so characters emanating from two actors who never change, costume- or appearance-wise. Fortunately, two clever Irishmen --- Derry Woodhouse (as gentle as junket) and Ciaran Crawford (as lean as a hickory stick) --- keep interest from flagging with their many turns; the evening is not unlike one spent at a comedy club (reinforced by the cozy Gloucester atmosphere). But clever as the Messrs. Woodhouse and Crawford are, they finally get in the way of the play --- there’s just so much room in a drop of water….