LA Theater Review: STONES IN HIS POCKETS (The Zephyr Theatre)

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by Kat Michels on August 25, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

TOO MANY STONES, NOT ENOUGH POCKETS

Marie Jones’s Stones In His Pockets is one of those plays that separate the boys from the men.  Fifteen characters that range in age, gender, accent, and change with rapid-fire succession, played by two actors. It is a surefire gauge to differentiate between the good and the great.  And just like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song it is either brilliant or everybody watches as the actors vainly struggle to carry all of the pieces to the end.  Tuta Theatre West’s production unfortunately falls into the latter category.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed the show.  It was good.  But when good is all you’ve got to offer, this play pales in comparison to it’s potential.  Director Zeljko Djukic and set designer Natasha Djukic utilize the small space well using a minimalist approach to create the varied locales.  A large road case is the primary set piece transforming the space with simple moves and ingenious uses – a table, a bed, a platform; and if you open it up and jump inside, it’s a tent.  (I would have loved to have been at the rehearsal where they played around and figured out all of the different ways a road case can be used.  It brought a certain childlike innocence to the show, hearkening back to the days where the best Christmas present turned out to be the giant cardboard box that Grandma sent the toys in instead of the actual toys.)

STONES IN HIS POCKETS - The Zephyr TheatreThis ingenuity sits in the shadow of a giant white screen that stretches across the stage.  A blank canvas to start the show.  It conjures up a nice metaphor.  The play is about a movie being filmed and created, and through this process our two main characters come up with their own story for a film that they want to create, so there are lots of ideas, visuals, and colors to splash across the big white expanse.  Yet…it is never used.  No projections, no movies, not even the shadow of a finger puppet.  With a set design as minimal as this one, and with every other piece on the stage used and reused, it was a letdown at the end when the biggest aspect of the set – one ripe with possibilities – was allowed to stand fallow for the duration.

But the biggest let down was the lack of polish.  The thing that makes professional athletes or performers so intriguing to watch is the way they can perform complex tasks or maneuvers with effortless grace.  Nobody would watch the Harlem Globetrotters if their every move was accentuated with looks of worry that they did it right.  Actors Andrew Friedman and Jerry Richardson get bogged down in the minutiae.  You can see the thought process on their faces as they rapidly shift from one character to the next: change accent, move bandana to my arm, stiffen my shoulders, put bandana in my pocket, now I’m a woman, tie bandana around my neck, etc.  This play is hard to pull off, and it looks like it is.

STONES IN HIS POCKETS - The Zephyr TheatreThe only time they truly relax is when they are afforded a page or two of dialogue as the same character.  It is during these times that Richardson shines.  Friedman has his moments, but his inability to hang on to his accents, along with the fact that the physicalities of several of his characters are very similar – creates some confusion as to which character he is at any given moment.  Thankfully, Richardson’s characterizations are distinct enough to clue the audience in as to who is talking…most of the time. By the end of the show it is abundantly clear which scenes have been rehearsed the most and which the least; the last five or so minutes were clearly worked on the most because they were beautiful.  Richardson and Friedman flowed through their characters and blocking like a gentle wind through the trees.  It was provocative, touching, funny and clear as a bell who was talking and what they were doing. This play is not out of the grasp or ability of either of these actors; they just need more rehearsal.

kat @ stageandcinema.com

Stones In His Pockets
scheduled to end September 17
for tickets, call (323) 960-7822 or visit http://www.plays411.com/stones

{ 1 comment }

Leslie August 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I love this review. You really gave me the good and the not-so-good about the show, so that I know what to expect in order to decide whether or not to see it.

I think I will … if only to see if you and I have similar tastes and reactions!

I look forward to more of your reviews. I hope you will be writing about the Theresa Rebeck play at the Mark Taper Forum…

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