Northlight Theatre: “Stones in His Pockets”

Ah, the Irish! Full of wit and humor, but somehow, sad at heart. Those qualities infused Northlight Theatre’s funny, poignant two-man show, “Stones in His Pockets.”

 

The stars, David Ivers and Brian Vaughn, portray two Irish fellows in their 30s, Jake and Charlie. Jake is just back from a few fruitless years in New York City, and Charlie lives at home with his mother. They are hired as extras for a movie being filmed in their hometown of County Kerry in the west of Ireland, and their dull lives are in stark contrast to what they perceive as the glamor of the Hollywood cast and crew who order them about.

This play by Marie Jones, directed by J. R. Sullivan, is set well before the late 1990s when Ireland suddenly became the Celtic Tiger, a time of prosperity, which sadly is now past. There is even one ancient man who is the last surviving extra in the 1952 Hollywood movie “The Quiet Man,” which was shot in Ireland.

The old extra is but one of the numerous characters showing up in the drama, and each is played by either Ivers of Vaughn. In a stunning tour de force, they slip in and out of various personas merely by changing their tone of voice and shaping their bodies differently.

Ivers, for example, plays the ancient extra who wears his one distinction with singular confidence, then suddenly becomes Jake’s tortured young second cousin, lost to the bottle and cocaine.

Vaughn does a deft imitation of the supposedly gorgeous American film star, Carolyn Ferrara. He then turns into the manic movie director, barking commands like General Patton on his way to Bastogne.

His Charlie also has a glimmer of hope for his future, a screenplay that he carries in his pocket. Will it make him rich, change his life? What do you think?

Like the best of Irish ballads, the play traverses the emotions, funny, then bittersweet, then fatalistic.

But it is impossible to regard these men as “losers” or “Irish nobodies,” even though they refer to themselves in those words. Ivers and Vaughn bring us two main characters that are so human, so real, so sympathetic that we are somehow better for knowing them and we can’t help hoping their lot will improve.

It’s a lovely play, see it and take your mother.

 

“Stones in His Pockets” runs through April 14 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For information, call 847-673-6300 or visit their website.