- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

Theater writer Mel Gussow says in his introduction to the script for "Stones in His Pockets" that he cannot imagine anyone but Conleth Hill and Sean Campion playing the roles of two Irish locals cast as extras in a Hollywood epic being filmed in their County Kerry village.
Just imagine, then, a non-Irish actor portraying one of the lads. Is there a dearth of Irish actors out there? What else could explain the casting of Hollywood character actor Bronson Pinchot as Charlie Conlon, a cut-up who uses jokes to hide a dark interior.
It is most disconcerting to have an American actor, whose Irish accent goes in and out, starring in a play that makes fun of Hollywood movie stars attempting to speak the mother tongue. If it is double-irony, it fails miserably, actually dulling the sharp satire of Marie Jones' keenly detailed portrait of the craziness and Fuji blimp-sized egos involved in making a film.
Mr. Pinchot practically busts a gut trying to send home the physical comedy necessary to delineate the 15 characters he and co-star Tim Ruddy portray in the course of the play. Mr. Pinchot is a gifted physical comedian, but not a particularly generous one. He's a scene hog who tries to wring every drop of audience response out of everything he does, often ruining the rhythm and timing of the bit.
While he is commanding the spotlight, the talented and quicksilver Mr. Ruddy is mostly left to fend for himself.
Appropriately enough, the most successful character that Mr. Pinchot portrays is the movie's divinely self-important star, Caroline Giovanni. She is a mixture of Julia Roberts' smooth Southern smarm and Miss Piggy's diva dynamics, and Mr. Pinchot has the seductive hair-tossing and perpetual torso-wriggling down pat. A scene in her trailer, in which she flirts with Mr. Ruddy's Jake Quinn (an extra), "accidentally" dropping her towel when she bends over, is a hilarious melding of flagrant body language and seemingly unguarded reaction.
Clearly, Mr. Pinchot is much more comfortable with the broader aspects of Miss Jones' gently sardonic play, which works when it concentrates on sending up Hollywood types and the Irish villagers caught up in the excitement and outrageous pampering of a film set.
A poignant thread, however, runs through the play; it concerns a character named Sean Harkin, a young man with a head full of movie dreams and dope who is tossed out of the pub one night by Caroline Giovanni.
Mortified by the public humiliation, he drowns himself. The cast and crew's response to the local tragedy is what takes "Stones in His Pockets" to a deeper level than satire.
Mr. Ruddy works quietly and manfully to bring the darker aspects of the play to light, and he is equally adept portraying the sillier characters, including Ashley, an eye-rolling young assistant director, and Jimmy, an elderly veteran of the movie biz who has the distinction of being the last surviving extra of "The Quiet Man."
"Stones in His Pockets" is a joyous read, and when the chemistry between the play's two actors is working, the show rolls along delightfully. But it takes respect and a willingness to share to make the play an ensemble acting piece, not a one-man show with a man to spare.

WHAT: "Stones in His Pockets"
WHERE: Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center
WHEN:
8 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. Through March 2.
TICKETS:
$25-$70
PHONE:
202/467-4600

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