Friday, February 1, 2013

Theater Review: Stones in His Pockets -- Yale Rep

Euan Morton  and Fred Arsenault. Photo: © Joan Marcus
What a Difference Good Direction and Acting Can Make!
By Lauren Yarger
When I first saw Marie Jones’s play Stones in His Pockets, I wasn’t reviewing, but was working as the Front of House Manager at the Bushnell where Bronson Pinchot was starring in the tour stop there in 2002. About half of the audience left at intermission, most of them asking what the play was about. I couldn’t answer. I had no idea myself.

Flash forward to the production currently playing at Yale Rep, starring Fred Arsenault (returning to Yale Rep again this season after Marie Antoinette) and Euan Morton (Tony-Award nominated for originating the role of Boy George in the musical Taboo) and directed by Evan Yionoulis. Here we have a story we can follow about a film shoot in a small village in County Kerry, Ireland as told by two actors playing a multitude of roles. What a difference good acting and sharp direction can make!

The play itself doesn’t standout as storytelling goes – its merit is in the opportunity it gives the actors to show their ability to morph from character to character, just with a quick turn, body language or the adjusting of part of a costume (Nikki Delhomme, design). That sweater offthe shoulder in the the photos above, for example, tells us Morton is Caroline. Yionoulis expertly guides the actors and adds some clever touches to create an entertaining night at the theater.

The actors step in and out of multiple roles anchored by Jake Quinlan (Arsenault) and Charlie Conlon (Morton), two extras who have been hired for the filming of “The Quiet Valley” starring Caroline Giovanni, an American film star (played by Morton). Handsome Jake attracts Caroline’s eye, but when it becomes clear that she just wants to use him for her own purposes, and won’t help Jake break in to the film business or give Chalrie’s screenplay a serious read, the extras start to wonder just how important the film, or the celebrity attached to Hollywood, really are in the scheme of things.

Other characters include Simon, the assistant director; Aisling, a second assistant director; Mickey, a local in his seventies, who is the last surviving extra from John Wayne’s movie “The Quiet Man;” Clem, the director; Finn, a young local; John, Caroline’s accent coach; and Jock, Caroline’s security man.

There’s also Sean (Arsenault), a desperate local who doesn’t get hired as an extra, despite the fact that he really digs turf (what the extras are doing) in real life. When he decides to commit suicide, filming is thrown into chaos, as most of the extras knew Sean or were related to him and want to attend his funeral, which conflicts with the filming schedule.

Out of this comes Charlie and Jake’s desire to make their own film from the point of view of Sean and the extras.

Adding to the presentation are video projections (by Edward T. Morris, who also designs the set), particularly a series of dailies – clips of the film production -- that open the second act. They are a hoot (Morton appears in full costuming as Caroline) with Yionoulis providing perfect staging to transition back into the live action.

Stones in His Pockets runs through Feb. 16 at Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven. Performance times vary. Tickets range from $20-96:; (203) 432-1234, Box Office (1120 Chapel Street). Student, senior and group rates are also available. Run time is about 1:45 with an intermission.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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