Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Stones in His Pockets
Also see Richard's review of Of Mice and Men
Jared Sanz-Agero and Jason Meyers slip breezily in and out of fifteen characters, back and forth, as the reality of County Kerry clashes with the needs of big stars and big studios. It all seems so awesome, the movie people and the grand illusion, until a sharp stab of reality bursts the Hollywood bubble.
Steve Callahan directs, at the Union Avenue Christian Church, and it's just one of those crazy plays where you don't know who gets credit for whatthe transitions from one character to another are seamless, the identities of each are charming and distinct, and the story itself is riotous and bittersweet. Beyond that, for the actors, it's like a playfully vicious Japanese game show, where the contestants are stretched to impossible limits, with great comic results. Richard Lewis coached these two contestants on their various accents, which are as strong as all the defiant personalities they represent.
Set against a barren backdrop of blue sky and canvas green hills, with only two hat stands for quick costume changes, Charlie (Mr. Sanz-Agero) and Jake (Mr. Meyers) are rumpled clowns, gob-smacked by life, in their few moments of quiet reflection. So you may see some visual similarity to Didi and Gogo from Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in all that nonsense in a non-space. However, in spite of the meaninglessness of their contribution to the film, and the irrelevance of all their pain and suffering, Charlie and Jake remain giddy, exciting figures.
They're both swept up in the filming of Quiet Valley, starring Caroline Giovanni, and directed by Clem CurtisVIPs each, portrayed by Mr. Sanz-Agero (when he's not Charlie) with a sort of feigned down-to-earthiness, occasionally turned to charming disdain. Meanwhile, Mr. Meyers (when he's not Jake) shows mad, unraveling brashness in his portrayal of Sean, a young man doomed to be humiliated by Ms. Giovanni in an imperious (and very public) moment. Sean comes to a bad end, and filming becomes secondary to grief.
Mr. Meyers also plays Aisling, the quietly deferential 2nd Assistant Director, who acts as a sort of traffic cop for everything that goes wrong. And, just as wasted and messed-up as Sean is, Aisling is soft spoken and self-controlled. Overall, Mr. Meyers wins on style and swagger, and Mr. Sanz-Agero, as often as not, on hapless, childlike charm.
But why is it so much fun, when it looks, on the face of it, just like the most chillingly absurd play of all time? The difference between this and Waiting for Godot, of course, is that these two characters manage to create an entire world of their own, in their version of no-man's land, filling it chock-full of gods and monsters. Didi and Gogo can only manage a persistent state of chaos, while Charlie and Jake look like they've whipped up the grandest, sustained song and dance number of all time.
They match up, often visually and sometimes spiritually, with Beckett's sad sacks. One story has a lyrical appeal, even as it drags you down, going no place, while the other takes the same patch of ground and turns it into something wonderful. Godot is the play you date, but Stones is the play you marry.
West End Players Guild's Stones in His Pockets, through November 19, 2017, at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Ave., a block north of Delmar Blvd. For more information visit www.westendplayers.org