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Arrogance a plus for "Stones In His Pockets"
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Chris Colcord has some choice words for the two actors he’s directing in Stones In His Pockets. “They’re kind of arrogant,” he says.
Colcord wouldn’t have it any other way. And to hear him tell it, if arrogance means self-assuredness, a rock solid confidence in your abilities on the stage, then any pair of actors who take on the roles of Jake Quinn and Charlie Condon in Stones In His Pockets better have a surplus of the stuff.
Because during the course of the play, each actor has to portray about a half-dozen different distinctive characters of all ages, accents, and nationalities. They need to switch from one character to the next instantly, and they have to do it without the aid of props or costumes. “For an actor, this is like the bar exam,” Colcord says. “This is like a dissertation. ‘Are you as good as you think you are?’”
Actors Darren Harrison (as Jake Quinn) and Rob Scrim (as Charlie Conlon) are very eager to prove they really are as good as they think they are.
Stones In His Pockets tells the story of what happens when a big-budget production company comes to a small Irish town to shoot a movie. Two of the locals, Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon, serve as extras in the film, and tell the story of what happens over the three-day period the movie is in town. It’s almost like stepping in to a bar and having these two people say “let me tell you this story…” An hilarious and moving slice-of-life tale, Stones In His Pockets earned its original actors a couple of Tony nominations when it first came to Broadway a few years ago, as well as heaps of praise for its author, Marie Jones.
“It’s a very challenging piece of work,” Colcord says. “The writer has made the bold choices, and the actors have to be just stupendous to pull it off. You just have to have some extremely versatile actors, and I have them.”
Rob Scrim and Darren Harrison certainly have the resume. Between the two of them, they’ve been in nearly 90 theatrical productions. Scrim, an accent coach who gets to try on a variety of Irish and English voices during the show, laughs when I tell him about Colcord’s “arrogant” comment (“And I would say to Chris ‘it takes one to know one’”), but doesn’t necessarily disagree when I suggest Colcord meant ‘self-confident.’ “I can say this: it takes a lot to scare me, and this is one of the scariest things I’ve done,” he explains.
Just to put it in perspective, Scrim played Frankfurter in the Civic’s production of Rocky Horror. In other words, prancing around in drag in front of a packed auditorium was less daunting than Stones In His Pockets, which requires him to portray seven different people besides Charlie, including a pretentious Brit, and 18-year-old Irish kid, and the female American actress Caroline Giovanni.
The last character is the one Scrim finds most difficult. “It’s tricky to try to walk around like a female, and not feel like I’m over exaggerating,” he says. “I have to get it as close to realistic as possible.”
For Harrison, who also plays seven different characters (“I start out as a 35-year-old guy, switch to a 20-year-old girl, to an 80-year-old guy… I get to sing a drunken Irish song. It doesn’t get any better than that!”), it’s his main character Jake Quinn that he finds most difficult. “You really have to invest yourself in him, and if you lose it, if I don’t nail that character, it taints the whole show,” Harrison says. “The rest pop in and out. They’re the color of the show. But this Jake Quinn guy, he’s got a lot going on in his past, and it’s important that you don’t lose that.”
The common thread there is realism. With the wide range of characters and accents, the rapid-fire changes, it might be tempting for an actor to exaggerate the performance, to ham it up behind the voices. But to do so would ruin the story. Stones In His Pockets is very funny in parts, but there’s a tragedy at its heart that takes the play to a whole new level. “The story that Jake and Charlie tell is quite compelling,” Colcord says. “It’s billed as a comedy, but only in the way The Cherry Orchard is a comedy. It has some profoundly tragic elements to it.”
“This will be a very, very powerful and unique theater experience,” adds Harrison. “People are going to walk out of there and feel like they’ve been treated to a great night in the theater.”
Stones In His Pockets is the debut performance for “Civic Off Main” and will be the first piece performed in the auditorium at the new Allen County Public Library. Colcord says the Civic Theater would like the use the new auditorium for smaller and slightly more adventurous productions than you might find in a big space like the Arts United Center.
The Civic Theatre Presents “Stones In His Pockets” (R adult language and content)
NEW Allen County Public Library Auditorium
Fridays and Saturdays April 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 at 8 pm. Sundays April 15 & 22 at 2 pm
Tickets: Civic Member’s Guest $14; Adults $15; Ages 23 and under $10, Sunday Sr. Matinees $12. Box office (260) 424-5220 or online at www.fwcivic.org