Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday October 24, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Wayne David Parker and Andrew Huff in Stones in his Pocket, Performance Network, Ann Arbor

Stones in His Pockets

The play of the year

by Sally Mitani

From the April, 2015 issue

Hilarious, brilliant, engaging, slapsticky, cerebral, challenging. And in 1999, when it was first produced, Stones in His Pockets, a play by Marie Jones, was joltingly original, too.

In the intervening years, either by cultural osmosis or more direct means, some of its story lines have been appropriated by other offbeat geniuses. Ricky Gervais used one of its premises for his screechingly funny series Extras, when he put the spotlight on a pair of extras on a movie set and made the movie's heavy hitters into minor characters. Playwright Martin McDonagh seems to have lifted another one for The Cripple of Inishmaan--like Stones in His Pockets, it's set in a western Ireland hamlet that has been enslaved by a movie crew who wants the townsfolk to behave like the yokels they never were.

There's still a third distinctive twist to the script that I don't think anyone else has used yet, though I might be wrong: the two actors who play the extras, Jake and Charlie, also play all the other parts--and Stones has about the usual number of characters (a dozen?) and conversations (hundreds?) you see in a two-act stage story. Sometimes the character switch is just for a line or two: Jake or Charlie will smoothly don a hat or whip a prop out of a pocket and suddenly be someone else and just as swiftly return to being Jake or Charlie. A play packed with such crazy, antic magic tricks could hardly be expected to have much of a story, could it? And yet it does have a fine and touching story, one that any conventional Hollywood producer would be proud to bankroll, though it doesn't begin to emerge until fairly late.

So far, I'm talking only about the script. What about the production, at the newly resurrected Performance Network? (PN died and was reborn. If you missed that chapter, it doesn't matter because it's back in the same place.) Both Wayne David Parker as Charlie and

...continued below...

Andrew Huff as Jake are dizzying to watch. They're both born scene-stealers. Parker, a physical comedian of great prowess, has approached every role in his long career like a high-wire circus act--he makes even the act of speaking a business of visible muscular precision. Playing several roles at once, he gives you a chance to see him really pull out all the stops. Huff is a subtler, more organic actor, the Abbott to Parker's Costello, and has the hard task of steering what starts out as a postmodern vaudevillian act into a straighter drama. There is, to be sure, a kind of bait-and-switch moment when you realize the disparate comedic shenanigans you're watching have suddenly coalesced into a story. It may be a sense that it's two plays stitched together just a little too awkwardly that has kept Stones from A-list fame. Or it may be that it's very, very difficult to find two actors who can do this.

If you don't see any other play this year, see this one before it ends its run on April 5.     (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2015.]


Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Dress Up on Dexter
Visions of a zombie army inspired the Hackbarths' changing tableaux.
Anita LeBlanc
Perfumes & Gifts by Shalimar Is Gone
Another swift departure on Main St.
Micheline Maynard
Public Schools in Chelsea
606 E. Washington
I Spy: August 2021
Sally Bjork
Mystery Bins
Who's really collecting that used clothing?
Tim Athan
Restaurants with Wi-Fi
A clickable zoomable map
The Headlong Growth of LynxDx
First it became Michigan's largest Covid tester. Now it's going after prostate cancer
Ken Garber
Health Care - Mental Health: Counseling
Remembering Professor Don Cameron, by Jeffrey A. Stacey
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter