Situated in a corner of Pullen Park that is beautiful and serene even in early March, Theatre In The Park began its production of Maria Jones’ Stones in His Pockets this weekend. This comedy, written in 1996, calls for a cast of two and this time stars Ryan Brock and Mike Raab, both of whom have extensive resumes with Theatre In The Park. Although the play is written for a cast of two, the players portray multiple characters.
The story takes place in a small town in Ireland where a film crew has moved onto the scene to shoot a movie, casting the villagers as extras. The townsfolk seem to enjoy the thrill of being in a movie as well as the pay and food the film crew allots them. However, the stress of filming and not being treated as well as the foreign movie stars soon takes its toll on the town and the people in it.
Brock and Raab handled the character changes admirably, changing their accents and putting on or taking off hats to signify different people. The Irish accent, something that one of the American movie stars illustrates is very difficult to handle, was treated with utmost sensitivity by this pair; they were able to characterize even the slightest difference in dialects between the multiple characters. From the “young bucks” to the old pub sitters, every character was easily recognizable. Their transitions into female characters may have been a little exaggerated, but it added to the comedy.
Director David Henderson created a quirky yet dramatic representation of Jones’ play. The actors were directed to spin around rapidly when seamlessly stepping into character in order to provide a visual cue for the audience that another character was being represented. The set, like the casting, is simple and small; it consists of a stone wall with several different pairs of shoes on or around it, as if to represent the multiple characters. The wall is not necessarily a pasture fence or a building foundation or a pub bench, but it is used to represent all these and more. Similarly, the lighting is used creatively to show the difference between scenes, flashbacks, and moods. The entire play encourages the audience members to use their imagination, as if everyone is playing a part in the same game.
Led by artistic and executive director Ira David Wood III, Theatre In The Park presents plays of a high caliber. The company, a year-round regional “little” theater based in the heart of Raleigh, is supported by its loyal and charming self-proclaimed “regulars,” a few of whom I was lucky enough to talk with during intermission. Many attendees were devoted friends who attend every play that Theatre In The Park puts on, an intimate family into which it was a pleasure to be welcomed. Stones in His Pockets continues March 8-11 and 16-18. For details, see the sidebar.
The next play that Theatre In The Park will present will be Leaving Iowa, opening on April 13.