In Stones in His Pickets (1996), now playing at Theatre in the Park, Irish playwright Marie Jones orchestrates an epic culture clash between the crusty denizens of rural Ireland and the imperious personages of a Hollywood film crew “roughing it” on location to film The Quiet Valley (think of a mashup of The Quiet Man and How Green Was My Valley). It is a culture clash that pays huge comic dividends, compounded by the fact that a plucky cast of two tackles all the roles, old and young, male and female, Irish and American.
TIP guest director David Henderson sets a brisk pace and coaxes virtuoso performances out of local crowd favorites Ryan Brock and Mike Raab, who had last Sunday’s matinee audience eating out of their hands from their very first moments Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, respectively. If it weren’t for bad luck, Jake and Charlie would have no luck at all. By the time these two temperamental hard-luck would-be Irish expatriots meet — as a pair of peasant extras in crowd scenes on The Quiet Valley — they have had their horizons narrowed by unfortunate turns of events that forced them to return home to County Kerry, with their tails tucked between their legs.
Mike Raab is delightful as Jake, a tall and lanky but cheeky character whose caustic running commentary could peal the paint off the film crew’s honey wagon. When the handsome Jake’s good looks catch the roving eye of Tinseltown prima donna Carolina Giovanni (played Brock), while she’s slumming at the local pub, it sets off a tragicomic chain of events that will leave lasting scars on the local community.
Raab is hilarious as pugnacious stoop-shouldered septuagenarian “wee Mickey” Riordan, the last living extra who worked on The Quiet Man who claims that he received his nickname from the Duke himself, John Wayne; and Raab switches gears effortlessly to play the young wastrel Sean Harkin and several other roles.
Mike Raab and Ryan Brock start out in peasant costumes that they have been issued by wardrobe for their crowd scenes, and they segue smoothly from character to character to character, 15 characters in all, by subtly shifting pieces of costume, posture, mannerisms, and facial expression.
Brock is highfaluting but a bit stiff as screen queen Carolina Giovanni (he needs to get more in touch with his feminine side), but he’s aces as Charlie, the Irish-born film director Clem Case, etc.
Scenic and lighting designer Stephen J. Larson gives Messrs. Brock and Raab a fine old stone wall on which to sit and grouse about the film crew’s mistreatment of the locals; and his wife, costume designer Shawn Stewart-Larson, outfits all of the oddball characters on display with just the right wardrobe pieces to underscore of their character’s quirks and tics — and heighten the hilarity of this hugely entertaining — and sometimes poignant — offbeat comedy by Marie Jones.
SECOND OPINION: March 6th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Andrea McKerlie: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5401. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the March 2nd Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/03/triangle-theater-veterans-mike-raab-and-ryan-brock-will-star-in-stones-in-his-pockets-by-marie-jones/.)
Theatre in the Park presents STONES IN HIS POCKETS at 7:30 p.m. March 8-10, and 3 p.m. March 11, 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 17, and 3 p.m. March 18 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($16 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919/831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
The Play: http://www.popularproductions.com/stonesinhispockets.htm (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stones_in_his_pockets (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Jones (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.