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Theater: Stones in His Pockets in Ottawa

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Stones in His Pockets runs at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa through December 11. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

STONES IN HIS POCKETS by Irish playwright Marie Jones is difficult to describe.  Winner of many awards on both sides of the Atlantic, the play centers around the making of a big-budget Hollywood epic in a small village in rural Ireland.  It's a tour-de-force for two actors who between them play fifteen characters, from the arrogant and self-deluded Hollywood crew to the Irish extras with their unrealistic dreams and ambitions. The play has a serious side and some pointed social commentary, as well as comedy.  In the midst of the laughs lurk some moving scenes, especially the one in which we discover the origin of the play's title.

Director Dennis Fitzgerald has made an odd and confusing choice in having his two actors play almost all of the roles, including the Americans, with Irish accents.  Although both the actors are very good at defining the characters through body language, the lack of differentiation in dialect occasioned much sotto voce discussion and explanation from my neighbors in the audience.  I've seen the play before, and even I had trouble keeping up.  The lack of clarity undercuts both the humor and the power of the play.                

Art Penson's spare set design works well, especially the opening slides.  His costumes are fine, although a few simple costume pieces would help with character definition.  Jock Munro's lighting is good as far as it goes, but could help point up the scenes being shot for the film.  Jon Carter's sound is, as always, excellent and the music choices add to the humor, especially in the opening.

Pierre Brault as Charlie and Jonathan Goad as Jake are both very good actors and amazingly versatile.  Mr. Brault is particularly effective as the film's arrogant director and as Carolyn, the shallow film star.  As for Mr. Goad, I really liked his childhood essay on cows.

These two actors work well together and have created a strong relationship as Jake and Charlie, the two main characters.  Their scenes together are very good, especially in Act II, and their dancing scene is hilarious.

Director Fitzgerald has unfortunately sacrificed clarity for pace.  By eliminating American dialects he has hamstrung the two actors.  They should play at a slower pace in order for us to follow the action, but this would eliminate one of the play's great delights - watching two good actors slip from one character to another with lightning speed.  Because of most of the characters' heavy brogues, the lightning speed just doesn't work.

On a scale of one to five the Great Canadian Theatre Company's production of STONES IN HIS POCKETS gets three and seven- eighths pizzas.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.  

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