The inhabitants of a village in County Kerry are abuzz with excitement as filmmakers descend to shoot a movie, and everyone is out in force to play extras. More than willing to offer advice is Mickey, a grizzled surviving extra of The Quiet Man, whose philosophy for success is: "Put yer head down an' go wherever they puts ya." Although oddly similar to Martin McDonagh's Cripple of Inishmaan, where Yanks making a movie figure prominently as well, Marie Jones' Olivier-winning play is a charming look into the innocence and camaraderie of existence in a modern Irish township.
All the colorful characters springing from Jones' imagination are played by two instantly lovable actors: JD Cullum and Barry McEvoy. Cullum hunches and chews as Mickey; then transforms into an ambitious female AD who orders the extras around like cattle; a twitchy young druggie thrown off the set; and Jake, just returned from an ineffectual try at making his way in America, now "back on the dole an' livin' wit' me Mam." McEvoy plays an ex-video store owner intent on selling his screenplay to the film's producers, a spoiled film goddess, and a local kid devastated when the druggie places stones in his pockets to drown himself.
The performances are impressive, though weighed down with stones placed there by director Neel Keller, who misses an important aspect in the playing of this piece. Cullum is grand in his choices and projects to the back rows at Stratford, while McEvoy speaks quietly and keeps his characters simpler and less distinct. Both approaches are valid, but are not concordant, leaving the impression of two actors playing in two separate plays. Cullum and McEvoy are exceptionally gifted and surely able to work in whatever style a director sets for them, but, without artistic supervision to blend their efforts into a unified whole, the play and their work suffer from the lack of a sharp directorial eye. Still, this is a sweet if not ultimately important play, made better by two wonderful actors whose talents could have been used to far greater advantage.
"Stones in His Pockets," presented by and at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. Tue.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. June 10-July 18. $33-47. (213) 628-2772.