Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan



Buffalo Irish Classical Theater Company's production of Stones in His Pockets


Kevin standing, Christopher sitting, photo by Gene Witkowski of ICTC

Christopher Evans and Kevin Craig star in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of  Stones in His Pockets The Irish Classical Theater Company's current production of Stones in His Pockets is a formidable acting task and risk for Kevin Craig (Charlie Conlon) and Christopher Evans (Jake Quinn) who occupy an almost bare stage in-the-round consisting of a rock, chair and trunk while assuming the identities of multiple characters (15) throughout two acts of rapid fire dialogue exchanges, allowing scant transition time and nowhere to hide.

And that's a problem in Act I, when the audience is subjected to non-stop channel surfing, unable, as with TV, to grasp much meat in the process until near the end when we learn of a tragic death. It's a helter-skelter sequence directed by Buffalo local, Christian Brandjes, Associate Professor of Theater at Daemen College.

Fortunately, the Act II interaction slows down a tad to concentrate on the main issue, a suicide by a local Irish teenage lad, Sean Harkin, embarrassed by a movie star, thrown out of a pub in front of his mates who are extras on the American film.

The title, Stones in His Pockets immediately conjures up the wonderful film, The Hours, a 2002 drama directed by Stephen Daldry and starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. The screenplay by David Hare was based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham. Kidman won the Academy Award's Best Actress for her brilliant portrayal of writer Virginia Woolf who committed suicide in the River Ouse in the same fashion as Harkin.

Stones In His Pockets at Irish Classsical Theater Kevin Craig and Christopher Evans are certainly up to the daunting task, and when all is said and done, the daring duo received a half-standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

Marie Jones' 1996 play is a parody of American film making itself, the two actors in their rapid fire exchanges simulating short cinematic takes often in no particular order. It's unnerving at first, but Act II comes to our rescue, and although there are many humorous exchanges, (People don't go to movies to be depressed; that is what theater is for.) it's black comedy as befits the small-town desperate economic Irish setting in County Kerry.

The other implication is that what's truly important in today's just-in-time market environment is a commercial product derived at the lowest expense in the shortest time, and who really cares about the human cogs in the machine as long as widgets are made. They are after all, only "extras." This reminds one of the fashion industry and cheap Third World garment labour, inhuman working conditions, crowded, unsafe structures and the recent Bangladeshi factory deaths. The Irish extras learn about this dynamic when they are told that they can't attend Harkin's funeral as it would be too costly for the film's producers, and when there's a successful revolt, they are warned next not to return to the film set with the smell of whisky, aka a dry wake which is anathema to the eldest Kevin Craig, photo by Wikimedia Commons Irish extra who often brags that he is the last surviving extra from the movie, The Quiet Man, the 1952 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

At first, everyone is cheerful when the big film company arrives in County Kerry with forty quid per day wages and tasty meals for the unemployed extras, the Irish locals who are supposed to provide colour and background for the stars, in this case a femme fatale named Caroline who at one point allows Jake 10 minutes inside her Winnebago ostensibly for a diction lesson, during which she shows an uncanny appreciation of the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney, quoting lines, which doesn't ring true in this Hollywood parody.

Christopher Evans, photo by Wikimedia Commons The play highlights the film crew's foolish attempts to create an idealized image of Irish culture which sharply conflicts with the reality of daily life. Craig and Evans adroitly perform all 15 characters (men and women), quickly switching gender and voice with minimal costume changes involving only a sweatshirt, hat or jacket.

Charlie's aspirations to get his own script made into a movie completes the play with both characters agreeing that in their movie version, the suicide would be the prime focus along with cows, lots of Irish cows in every frame! When they pitch the concept to the American director, he responds that their story is not romantic or commercial enough, but they are not dissuaded.

The show plays in the intimate Andrews Theatre (625 Main St.) through March 23. Call 853-4282 or visit www.irishclassical.com.

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    Stones In His Pockets

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