Theater review: Theater Barn acting duo brilliant in juggling 15 roles

There are two excellent reasons to make the trip to New Lebanon to see The Theater Barn’s production

‘Stones in His Pockets’

WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon

WHEN: Through Sept. 25


MORE INFO: 794-8989,

There are two excellent reasons to make the trip to New Lebanon to see The Theater Barn’s production of “Stones in His Pockets:” Trey Compton and Matthew Daly.

These two actors give powerhouse performances as 15 different characters, including the residents of a village in County Kerry, Ireland, and the crew of an American film company making a movie there.

Two men Jake Quinn (Compton) and Charlie Conlon (Daly) meet on the set and become best buds. They become enthralled with Caroline, the film’s zaftig star, played with juicy exuberance by Daly, and Quinn ends up in her Winnebago as her would-be dialect coach. They also meet Mickey Reardon (Compton), a twinkly Irishman and “the last surviving extra from ‘The Quiet Man.’ ” There are a few crew members such as the frustrated first assistant director (Daly) and his assistant, Ashley (Compton), a skittish young girl who attempts to take control of the raucous villagers who people the set and are enjoined to react to the stars when the stars are, of course, not present.

Tragic death

One of the strongest elements of the show is the tragic death of Sean Harken (Compton), a local teenager who has been rejected by the movie company as an extra on the film. He has shown up for the audition “whacked out” on drugs. He is then rejected by the film’s star, Caroline, in the local pub and thrown out into the street “in his own town.” He drowns himself by putting stones in his pockets and walking into a lake. His best friend (Daly) has witnessed the suicide from a hilltop and describes it in touching teenage terms.

It is a splendid moment. Splendid too is the effect the young man’s death has on everyone connected with the film. It empowers Quinn who is appalled that the director of the film (Daly) will not give the townsfolk (most related to the boy) time off to go to the funeral.

You may be thinking that all of this is just too much for two actors to handle and, in truth, I have seen it done unsuccessfully — I’m thinking particularly of a production I saw of “The Mystery of Irma Vepp,” which boasts the same conceit (two actors playing multiple parts). But I must say that Compton and Daly handle their roles deftly. They give each character clarity and depth. Their gifted costume designer, Alyssa Couturier (what an appropriate name!) helps with that. Hats, costume pieces, shoes, shirts and jackets are placed artfully about the stage and the two actors handle the changes with precision. It is exciting theater.

Wishful thinking

Having said all that, it is important to note that on some level I wished that the show had been fully cast. Unlike “Irma Vepp,” this is a strong story. I found that, in some cases, darker, more dramatic moments were muted by the theatrical acrobatics of the two actors, no matter how well-executed, such as the firing from the film of Mickey Reardon, whose very identity rested on his persona as an extra on American films made in his town. Playwright Marie Jones might someday do some reconfiguring of the play — and, if she does, I’ll be there to see it.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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