PlayMakers Repertory Company’s current presentation of Stones in His Pockets by Irish playwright Marie Jones serves as a splendid showcase for the acting talents of PRC guest artist David Brian Alley and company member David Friedlander, a dynamic duo with a fine flair for comedy. Messrs. Alley and Friedlander initially play a couple of first-time film extras named Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, respectively, out-of-work Irishmen who sign on to an American film shoot for the glory and the “forty quid per day,” and find themselves playing the decidedly unglamorous roles of “background bog men.”
Playing Conlon and Quinn and then smoothly segueing into a multitude of other roles, under the sure-handed direction of PRC’s John Feltch, the two Davids bring a multitude of colorful characters — Irish and American originals, one and all — fully and gloriously to life, employing an impressive variety of accents, facial expressions, mannerisms, postures, gaits, etc., to imbue each of their roles with a distinctive personality.
The springboard for comedy in Stones in His Pockets is the colossal culture clash between a rich and glamorous Hollywood film production company, making a big-budget movie on location in rural Ireland, and the poor but proud and gritty Irish inhabitants, many of whom sign on as extras for the filming of the turgid cinematic romance The Quiet Valley, whose producers hope to awaken the echoes to director John Ford’s 1952 romantic comedy, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, which also filmed in County Kerry.
David Alley is a delight as poor downtrodden Charlie, a sad-sack would-be screenwriter who impotently fulminates against the Irish equivalent of Blockbuster, which put his small local video store out of business, and the manager of that new store, who added insult to injury by stealing his girlfriend.
Alley also tickles the PRC audience’s funny-bone with his sultry sashaying as beautiful but high-string American movie star Caroline Giovanni; his fidgeting as Simon the film’s first assistant director, gamely trying to keep the production on schedule and under budget; and the exaggerated poses he strikes as Clem the stuffy English director of the movie. Alley also plays Giovanni’s menacing Scottish security man Jock Campbell and a number of other minor roles with gusto.
David Friedlander is highly amusing as Charlie’s new mate, cheeky Jake Quinn, an aspiring actor recently returned to Ireland after an unsuccessful attempt to find his fortune in New York City. Friedlander creates an edgy portrait of scruffy ne’er-do-well Sean Harkin, a dreamy lad who consumes massive quantities of drugs to soothe the ache of rejection that he feels after he approaches Caroline and she has him tossed from his own pub; and he is a scream as poor, bent, bellicose septuagenarian Mickey Riordan, who worked as an extra on The Quiet Man — and never lets anyone forget that fact. Like Alley, Friedlander also contributes a number of other crisp cameos.
Director John Feltch whips up this tasty comic soufflé with wit and grand style. Scenic and costume designer Marion Jones brilliantly dresses the thrust stage of the Paul Green Theatre — and the cast — for success. Two tall spotlights tower of a stage cluttered with unmounted lighting instruments, wardrobe trunks, director’s chairs, and other assorted filmmaking paraphernalia. The backdrop is a clever three-dimensional view — as seen from above — of a small herd of black-and-white cows cropping the lush green grass of County Kerry.
Lighting designer John Ambrosone deftly illuminates the action, and sound designer Michèl Marrano delivers a carefully chosen assortment of music snippets and ambient sound in ways that enhance this high-spirited production of this terrific two-hander that expertly mines Stones in His Pockets for a wealth of comic gems.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Stones in His Pockets Tuesday-Saturday, Jan. 23-27, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, and Feb. 6-10, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 and 11, at 2 p.m. in the Paul Green Theater in the Center for Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. $10-$32. 919/962-PLAY (7529). Note 1: There will be FREE post-show discussions on Jan. 24th and 28th. Note 2: There will be an all-access performance on Feb. 6th, with Braille and large-print programs, audio description, and sign-language interpretation available in addition to the assisted listening system and wheelchair seating that PRC offers at each performance. PlayMakers Repertory Company: http://www.playmakersrep.org/genPage/index.pl?pgid=161 [inactive 8/07]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=12831.