Pour yourself a pint and do a little jig – Stones in his Pockets is a production worth celebrating.
It’s been a long road for the two-hander to make its way to the Persephone Theatre stage. Originally scheduled for 2020, the comedy was canceled on the cusp of its opening by the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Persephone Theatre brought the show back — and two and a half years later, the opening on Friday night proved it was well worth the wait.
Stones in his Pockets follows Irishmen Charlie Conlon (Skye Brandon) and Jake Quinn (Nathan Howe) who sign on as local extras for a Hollywood movie being shot in the Irish countryside. The pair enjoy their minute of fame in their sleepy Irish town until a sudden tragedy interrupts the production and makes both men question stories versus reality — and reckon with both the hope and the pain that comes with holding on to your dreams.
While Brandon and Howe may be credited as playing Charlie and Jake respectively, it most certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Both actors switch between different characters — the movie starlet, the director, a troubled young teen, an elderly extra, and more — with such rapidity it almost makes your head spin.
But only almost. Brandon and Howe show off some remarkable acting chops by flipping between characters with ease, using a masterful physicality to differentiate each person. By the end of the show the audience can tell which characters are appearing simply by how the actors carry themselves or adjust their costumes.
And watching Brandon slip into the seductive starlet while a hapless Howe (as Jake) watched on was positively laugh-out-loud funny.
There’s one word that encapsulates the feel of this show: sharp. Brandon and Howe are downright hilarious, slinging fast jokes and flipping through characters with aplomb. Even when the two are reckoning with tragedy in the second act, the show never loses its energy or its precision.
Director Joshua Beaudry has directed and performed in a variety of shows in Saskatoon, and his fingerprints are all over this funny and physical production. Beaudry deserves his own round of applause for wringing every possible laugh from a great script — and his direction helped the two performers command the full stage and transform from character to character with ease.
All parts of the show moved like cogs in a perfectly calibrated machine. From the performances of the two actors, to the simple but superb costumes, to the wonderful light and sound design that helped elicit laughs every time Charlie and Jake were suddenly performing in front of the cameras, the production was as slick as can be.
There tends to be a spot in every show one can point to as being weaker than the rest. This time around, the whole production team should happily pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
This is the best Persephone Theatre production in recent memory, COVID or no COVID. Though one could nit-pick that the leads’ Irish accents fluctuated here and there, it never happened enough to be a distraction.
Persephone Theatre has set the bar high for the rest of their season — but the future can wait. For now, Stones in his Pockets is a funny, poignant, impossibly Irish comedy that will brighten up your grey September.
Stones in his Pockets runs until Oct. 2 at Persephone Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at persephonetheatre.org.