.Rolling ‘Stones’: Irish comedy satisfies at Spreckels

What happens when Hollywood comes to town is a well-worn plot device best exemplified by the classic “Mayberry Goes Hollywood” episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry’s reactions to the arrival of a film company in their quaint Southern town was played for gentle humor.

Playwright Marie Jones takes the same plot elements and transports them to County Kerry, Ireland (where life is not quite so gentle) with Stones in His Pockets. The Spreckels Theatre Company has a Sheri Lee Miller-directed production running in Rohnert Park through Sept. 10.

Charlie (Jimmy Gagarin) and Jake (Sam Coughlin) are two local lads working as extras on an American film being shot in their hometown. Outside of being able to earn 40 quid a day, Charlie’s got a script he’s hoping to pass on to someone who can do something with it while Jake is quite taken with the film’s female star.

Charlie and Jake spend their time on set dealing with an impatient director, an unctuous AD, an elderly local who proudly proclaims he’s the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man and a troubled young addict, among others.

After a hectic day of shooting on location, a night out at the local pub results in Jake spending some time with the woman of his dreams while another local’s interaction with the star leads to a decidedly different end.

Besides Charlie and Jake, Gagarin and Coughlin play every other role regardless of the character’s age or gender. As soon as one’s ear has adapted to the Irish brogues in use, one quickly finds oneself trying to figure out who’s who. The transitions between characters are simply done, usually indicated by a change in posture or vocal pitch or a quick exit and entrance. The only costume change is the putting on and taking off of a cap.

Credit to Miller, Gagarin and Coughlin for defining the characters strongly enough to allow the audience to eventually grasp the transitions.

A lot of the show’s humor deals with the issue of authenticity, ranging from American film star Caroline Giovanni’s struggles with an accent to a herd of cows that has to be replaced because “they don’t look Irish enough.”

Gagarin and Coughlin don’t struggle with accents and do look Irish enough. They both shine in this simply staged production which avoids being an exercise in acting and, despite some heavy moments, is quite amusing.

‘Stones in His Pockets’ runs through Sept. 10 in the Condiotti Experimental Theater at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder La., Rohnert Park. Fri & Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $12 -$34. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com.


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