Theater review: Stones in His Pockets at NC Stage Co.
In the Q&A session following their Friday, April 26 staging of Stones in His Pockets at NC Stage Co., Charlie Flynn-McIver and Scott Treadway revealed that their initial performances of the play in 2005 were the most terrified either has been in their illustrious acting careers.
Though now familiar with the work and having rehearsed for three weeks leading up to its Asheville revival, both nonetheless admitted to lingering concerns with each new performance of being unable to keep track of their six and seven respective characters — fearful that in the transition from one to the next, the wrong line would emerge.
No such tension was evident in that night’s joyful iteration as both of the WNC stalwarts and recent Jeeves at Sea co-stars showcase impressive dexterity that tests the limits of their live theater talents.
With Julie K. Ross’ lush backdrop landscape painting of seaside County Kerry, Ireland, providing a constant visual treat, the duo most firmly inhabit the roles of aspiring screenwriter Charlie Conlan (Flynn-McIver) and his friend Jake Quinn (Treadway), who’s recently back from a stint in the U.S. The pals and many of their neighbors are extras on a Hollywood production that’s filming in town, a circumstance that sets up copious interactions between residents and visitors.
To transform into a new character, the actors spin around, slide or merely shift and change facial expressions or posture, bringing with them distinct mannerisms and identifiable voices to make identification easy on the audience — and likely each other.
While the range of accents, ages, and social standings are all outstanding, the female roles and the affected timbres they require shine brightest. To segue into his assignment, Treadway drops his vest to a shawl and becomes leading lady Caroline Giovanni, while Flynn-McIver adopts a wide-eyed naiveté to portray Aisling, the film crew’s third assistant director.
Gifted physical actors, the pair also deftly handle multiple flashbacks and convincingly mime pint glasses, canes, and other invisible props. There’s also no fun in spoiling the specifics of the original choreography by Heather Lea Gallagher, other than to say it’s delightful and executed terrifically by the performers.
Also in the Q&A, Treadway shared the stunning detail that Marie Jones’ script doesn’t indicate which actor is to play which remaining roles. As such, kudos to the terrific organization by the previous production’s director Christopher Burns, whose hard work is preserved by the current staging’s director, Neela Muñoz.
The material itself, however, isn’t the strongest. The tragedy that propels much of the second act arrives out of nowhere and its catalyst receives an unconvincing explanation. And though there is an intermission, likely to give the actors a well-earned respite, the play’s brisk pace — aided by ever-reliable stage manager C.M. Garrison on the boards — seems better suited to having no breaks in the action. Perhaps overly focused on maintaining this energy, Jones’ writing skims over certain seemingly important plot aspects and wraps up surprisingly quickly with a tidy and somewhat cheap self-referential turn.
Through it all, Flynn-McIver and Treadway never let up and their extraordinary chemistry elevates the script to a plane higher than it may deserve.
Stones in His Pockets plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through May 19, with additional Saturday matinees May 11 and 18 at North Carolina Stage Co., 15 Stage Lane, Asheville. For tickets and more information, visit ncstage.org.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Treadway)