Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Stones in His Pockets
Theater Latté Da
Review by Arthur Dorman | Season Schedule

Also see Arty's recent reviews of Handprints, The Elixir of Love, Dial M for Murder, and The Nosebleed

Reed Sigmund and Tom Reed
Photo by Dan Norman
There are a dozen or more characters on the newly named Peter Rothstein Stage at the Ritz Theater where Theater Latté Da's outstanding production of Marie Jones' play Stones in His Pockets is now running. Twelve characters, but only two actors. The actors are Tom Reed and Reid Sigmund, and they primary roles are of two fairly young men–young, but old enough to have been battered a bit by life–from rural Ireland who, in the mid 1990s, find work as extras in a Hollywood movie. The film's producers, having chosen a beautiful setting in southwest Ireland for their costume drama, have pretty much taken over the town with their Hollywood values and expense accounts, a glamorous and famous American leading lady, and an unyielding focus on the bottom line.

The two chaps, Charlie Conlon (Reed) and Jake Quinn (Sigmund), meet early on during the film shoot and become fast friends. Charlie is from the north of Ireland, which he left–or fled–when his life turned upside down after his video shop went bust and his girlfriend dumped him. Jake is a local, recently returned to the hometown after a disappointing try at life in New York City. At first they are dazzled by the glamour of it all and what is–for them–the high pay. As days roll by they increasingly become attuned to the falseness of it all, and the fact that while they are acquiring dreams of Hollywood fame and fortune, the reality is that after a few weeks the Americans will sail off and the locals will be no better off than before–only with an extra dose of disillusionment.

Among the other characters in the play are a troubled, drug-addled young man–and Jake's cousin–named Sean, an obnoxious assistant named Ashley, and Mickey, an old-timer who claims to be the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man, a John Wayne movie filmed in Ireland that came out in 1952. Sigmund takes on all of those personas, while Reed portrays the film's director, a priest, a security guard who seems to enjoy the chance to rough up the locals, a lad named Finn who is Sean's best mate, and Caroline Giovanni, the imperious leading lady. What is wonderful is the manner in which the two actors transform from one character to the next with a mere change in posture, voice, and an odd accessory or two–a silky scarf, a priest's collar, a knit cap pulled down low, a pair of pitch-dark sunglasses, and such.

It takes a director experienced at working with a small cast playing multiple roles, minimal sets and props, and only the suggestion of costumes in order to allow for split second changes to pull of such a piece. Marcela Lorca has helmed many works that fit that description for Ten Thousand Things Theatre, where she serves as artistic director. With these few tools, Lorca masterfully creates the feel of a massive canvas that conveys the sweep of the horde of extras and movie crew, the intense density within a local pub, and the downcast conviviality of an Irish wake.

Of course, it also takes a special talent for an actor to persuasively create a complex character who draws our sympathies while also switching on and off into other guises without meeting a beat in the quickly paced two-act play. Tom Reed, who of late has been seen on a host of stages all over the Twin Cities, spent many years as a company member at the Brave New Workshop, and his experience in fast-paced sketch comedy and improvisation serve him well here as Charlie Conlon and company. He is especially moving when, faced with a downturn of luck, he repeatedly convinces himself not to give in, that he is "Cheerful Charlie" for now, increasingly hinting at a darker past that is far from cheerful.

Reed Sigmund is a twenty-three-year veteran of the Children's Theatre Company where he has essayed a vast range of fanciful characters, including numerous seasons as the grinchiest of Dr. Seuss's Grinches. Sigmund has previously appeared at Latté Da, most recently as leading man in last season's Hello, Dolly! and before that as Amos Hart in Chicago, where his "Mr. Cellophane" brought down the house, so clearly he is well-equipped to move swiftly in and out of the characters in Stones in His Pockets. Sigmund is especially winning when Jake, against all odds, is given a chance to spend time, up close and personal, with Caroline Giovanni. He moves from tongue-tied awkwardness to eager suitor to disappointed dupe as he realizes that Caroline–and the entire film operation–are using him and his close-knit community for their own ends. Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon are no simple comic creations, but deeply felt characters whose lives are full of regrets and discontents.

Theater Latté Da is committed to musical theatre, and thus brings live music to this production. Music director Jason Hansen composed music to accompany much of the play's narrative and tunes suitable for a lively local pub and a mournful wake. Hanson plays piano, keyboard and guitar, along with violinists Susan Crawford and Theresa Elliott. Hansen's music is winning and well played, with the one downside being that on occasion its volume makes the actors a bit difficult to hear. Cleverly, during the scenes that depict filming the overwrought movie, a lush orchestral score is heard, sending up film scores that telegraph to audiences how they ought to feel at any point during the movie.

Benjamin Olson created a wrap-around environment that places us all in the Irish countryside, wrapping the walls of the auditorium and halls leading to the lobby, as if we too have been sucked into the madness of an American film crew taking up residence in our midst. Olson designed a simple set with moveable pieces–barrels, boards, trunks, benches–that are rearranged to represent the various settings, along with projections by Kathy Maxwell that establish whether we are on the movie set, the dressing room, the pub, a cow pasture, or some other place.

Sarah Bahr has two actual costumes for the characters Jake and Charlie, their "downtrodden peasant" attire for their roles as extras in the movie and their unassuming street wear, along with the accessories and flounces that transform them into other characters. Dialect Coach Jill Walmsley Zager has guided the actors in creating authentic-seeming Irish and American accents, as called for, with the exception of the production assistant Ashley, whose accent is both indeterminate and irritating–perhaps by design.

The title, Stones in His Pockets, refers to a tragic event that occurs in the course of the play, which turns the tide completely from viewing the selection of their community as a movie location as a godsend, providing good pay and glamour to the depleted town, to weighing the fleeting nature of those gains and the psychic toll they take against deeply rooted values that are both an inheritance and a burden upon them. In the play's first act, it is easy to perceive that optimism stems from the arrival of the Americans, while in the second act, it increasingly feels like optimism stems from the fact that the Americans will be gone and the local folk will be able to reclaim their town, down and out as it may be.

Theater Latté Da's production of Stones in His Pockets provides a delightful two hours of entertainment dished out by two excellent actors in top form. Upon leaving, the play is likely to increasingly sneak up on playgoers, as it did on this one, with a host of thoughts and feelings that linger, adding weight like stones in our pockets.

Stones in His Pockets, produced by Theater Latté Da, runs through February 25, 2024, at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis MN. For tickets and information, please call 612-339-3303 or visit

Playwright: Marie Jones; Director: Marcela Lorca; Music Director and Composer: Jason Hansen; Scenic Design: Benjamin Olson; Costume Design: Sarah Bahr; Lighting Design: Marcus Dillard; Sound Design: Peter Morrow; Projections Design: Kathy Maxwell; Hair and Makeup Design: Emma Gustafson; Props Design: Abbee Warmboe; Dialect Coach: Jill Walmsley Zager; Production Stage Manager: Shelby Reddig; Assistant Stage Manager: Kyla Finn; Technical Director: Bethany Reinfeld; Associate Technical Director: Eric Charlton.

Cast: Tom Reed (Charlie Conlon), Reed Sigmund (Jake Quinn), Musicians: Jason Hansen (piano/keyboard/guitar), Susan Crawford (violin), Theresa Elliott (violin).