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Stones in His Pockets

Presented by Paul Elliott, Adam Kenwright, Pat Moylan, Ed and David Mirvish, and Azenberg/Pittelman at the Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45 St., NYC. Opened April 1 for an open run.

Charlie and Jake, two small-town Irishmen, are extras in a big Hollywood movie being shot in the Irish countryside. They are played, respectively, by Conleth Hill and Sean Campion—who also play the numerous local types and the numerous Hollywood types that Charlie and Jake encounter. Set and costumes (Jack Kirwan) and lighting (James McFetridge) are suitably unobtrusive. But thanks to smart writing by Marie Jones, smart directing by Ian McElhinney, and clear, precise, turn-on-a-dime acting by the entire cast of two, you are hardly ever in doubt as to who is talking to whom, where they are, and what's going on.

This production of "Stones in His Pockets" originated at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and comes to us from London, where it won a couple of Best Comedy awards. It is an impressive tour de force. But is that all it is? Has Marie Jones written much of a play? Does anything happen to Charlie and Jake to hold our attention, aside from all the instantaneous transformations? Well… Charlie has written a screenplay that he wants to peddle; obviously, nothing will come of that. Jake bungles his chance for a fling with the movie's glamorous star. In Act II, things darken somewhat after a local young man drowns himself, walking into the water with "stones in his pockets." Unconvincingly, Jones suggests that the suicide is the fault of Hollywood, which has filled his head with fantasies.

There are some neat laughs over the commercializing and mythologizing of Irishness (already an issue when Bernard Shaw wrote "John Bull's Other Island" in 1904, and still going strong), including a hilarious parody of Irish step dancing, performed by Charlie and Jake as happy peasants. But on Broadway, far away from County Kerry, "Stones in His Pockets" seems a bit bland. For a more incisive culture-clash comedy about what can happen when a movie-in-the-making hits a small town, see David Mamet's movie, "State and Main."

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