Everyone holds onto a dream that’s yet to be fulfilled, such as becoming a famous actor, a celebrated author or meeting the love of our life. With the tragicomedy Stones in His Pockets, written by Marie Jones, we contemplate the weight of such dreams and how far we’re willing to carry them. One of the best productions of the year is showing at N.C. Stage Company through Sunday, May 19.
Charlie Conlon (played by Scott Treadway) and Jake Quinn (Charlie Flynn-McIver) meet on a film set. They’re hired as extras for a big Hollywood production set in their native Ireland. As they scoff at the Americanization of the film, they quickly become friends. Charlie yearns to be a successful screenwriter, and Jake ponders the possibility of being a big-time actor. When Caroline Giovanni, the famed star of the film, approaches Jake in a local pub, both men feel this meeting could be key to their success.
However, on that same night, Caroline snubs an overzealous fan named Sean, who then drowns himself by placing stones in his pockets. When the film crew refuses to break for Sean’s funeral, the close-knit group of extras revolts, threatening the outcome of the film.
The production’s fullest potential is realized by director Neela Muñoz. The scenic design by Julie K. Ross has various shoes curiously outlining the back wall below an old school mural of the rolling green hills of Ireland. While the stage is open, the blocking required is not easy whatsoever, making the results of Muñoz’s job all the more impressive.
The show’s two actors play a plethora of characters. They slip in and out of various roles with the turn of a collar or by merely circling around a column. Every single characterization here has to be dead-on: It’s an extraordinary achievement. Treadway and Flynn-McIver are so invested in the rhythm of the story that we have little trouble imagining where we are and who we are with. They both give award-worthy performances.
The comedy here outweighs the drama by far (including hilarious bursts of adult language). Both actors make the most of their acting beats, and it is impossible not to belly-laugh at the results. Strangely, though, the playwright leaves two of the most memorable characters sort of hanging. They are Flynn-McIver’s Mickey (the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man) and Treadway’s scene-stealing Caroline. Both are remarkably well rendered by the actors — perhaps this is the reason we want to see more of them.
Because of the effectiveness of this wonderful production, an important message becomes quite clear: If we spend our lives bitterly struggling to fulfill our dreams, in the end, our biggest regret will be that we didn’t enjoy the journey.
WHAT: Stones In His Pockets
WHERE: N.C. Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, ncstage.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, May 19. Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. $10-$38