By Rachelle Hughes
I kind of loved it. I know, I know, I am giving away this review’s punch line in the first sentence. When I went to see the fall season’s opening production of Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2-man play Stones In His Pocket I had no expectations. I came away from the play thinking this simple phrase – Well, I kind of loved it.
Never mind the hype that goes along with long time Festival actors and current Festival artistic directors Brian Vaughn and David Ivers taking the stage together. Never mind the absolutely glowing and moving introduction given by Festival founder, Fred Adams, about how “the boys were back” to do this highly acclaimed play written by Marie Jones and produced in 2005 by the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Never mind that J.R. Sullivan who directed Ivers and Vaughn in the 2005 production came back to direct an encore of one of the patrons’ all-time favorites. It was my first time seeing the show, and while I love Vaughn and Ivers I believe that each time they take that stage they have to work just as hard as any actor to pull off their character or characters. They have got to prove they can do it.
Fortunately, they believe in working hard too. They didn’t coast on their audience’s love for them as performers. They laid it all on the stage, especially in this play where they have to shift instantaneously from one character to another. David and Ivers play all 15 characters in what Fred Adams calls “A wild Irish comedy.” It was always a little unexpected when they suddenly flipped from one character to another. And yet, there was never any confusion that they were indeed portraying someone new. In fact, I almost forgot that it was Ivers when he would transform into the elderly Mickey.
While, my theater going partner was a little bored by the story line, I thought it was cleverly done. While I would not call it a hilarious comedy that had me laughing hysterically, I did enjoy how humor was woven into this story that felt like it was filled with real life characters and how they collided in this small snapshot of what happens when Hollywood swoops into a rural town.
Jake and Charlie are extras on a Hollywood movie being filmed in a small town in Ireland. Charlie (Brian Vaughn) is the energetic and optimistic outsider who comes to town and makes friends with Jake (David Ivers) who is feeling a lot like the dispossessed peasant he and all the other extras are portraying. Jake and most of his neighbors and “cousins” are extras in the movie, except for the wayward “cousin” Sean Harkin. Sean Harkin desperately wants to be in the movies and is tossed aside by the directors and the glamorous movie star Caroline. His unhappiness, angst and eventual tragedy bring reality to the town and especially Jake and Charlie who have been temporarily changed by the glitz and glam of the arrival of Hollywood. I am not going to give away the punch line to the story; you will just have to see it. Although, I will say that the title of this play is in more ways than one the punch line of the story. I love when everything ties together and makes sense in the end.
There were so many little unexpected moments in this play and perhaps that is what made me love it. I do love a surprise. I was the most surprised at how much I enjoyed the pub scene. I never love a bar scene. But Vaughn played Charlie and Caroline so perfectly I couldn’t help but be drawn in. I was surprised at the direction the plot line took a couple of times and I was always surprised when Ivers would suddenly become the female assistant movie director, Aisling. Perhaps, the greatest surprise was when I found myself giving a standing ovation. I am not one of those theater-goers that give a standing ovation at every play I attend. It takes a lot to pull me out of my seat. I feel that type of accolade should be a sincere portrayal of my admiration for a job superbly done. But you surprised me Stones In His Pockets and I just had to stand up and tell you so.
Stones in His Pockets will run through October 27 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. For more information visit bard.org.
Alive! Utah recieves review tickets for all plays it reviews.