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Reviews: Stones in His Pockets




Stones in his Pockets

TUTA Theatre West at the Zephyr Theatre

Reviewed by Les Spindle

August 24, 2011

Photo by Suki Medencevic

In the tradition of “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and “Greater Tuna,” Marie Jones’ 1999 two-hander “Stones in His Pockets” gets terrific comedic mileage out of versatile actors making split-second shifts among multiple characters. It allows a gifted duo to demonstrate wide-ranging comedic skills, relying almost exclusively on voice and body language to achieve the transformations. Director Zeljko Djukic’s rendition taps into the talents of Andrew Friedman and Jerry Richardson, who clearly relish the opportunity to create 16 amusing characters between them. The play’s first half is a nonstop lark, but the shift to a tragicomic tone after intermission feels too jarring. Thankfully, this skilled company keeps the boisterous shenanigans entertaining most of the way through.

Hollywood filmmakers have come to a small village in County Kerry, Ireland, to make a movie, giving bored working-class citizens the thrill of playing extras. The pivotal characters are local yokels Charlie (Friedman) and Jake (Richardson), each yearning for a shot at Hollywood glamour and fame. The personal values of the visitors from Tinseltown prove shallower than expected, best exemplified by a flirtatious film star, the bawdy Caroline (Friedman in an uproarious turn), who catches Jake’s fancy. Richardson likewise shines in a female role, that of Aisling, an uppity young assistant director eager to climb the studio ladder.

Richardson excels as another eccentric Kerry resident, 70-year-old Mickey, who considers himself a seasoned vet, having performed as an extra in John Ford’s film classic “The Quiet Man.” It takes Richardson no more than an instant shift to a stooped posture and an immediate change in voice to bring this codger to life. Friedman pulls off equally impressive lightning-swift segues. The mood darkens following a suicidal drowning, as the play’s title takes on literal and figurative significance. Though the script is less than the sum of its parts, Djukic’s polished production and the appealing actors should satisfy most audiences.

Presented by TUTA Theatre West at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. Aug. 19-Sept. 17. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m. (No performance Sat., Aug. 27.) (323) 960-7822 or


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‘Stones in His Pockets’ at the Zephyr Theatre

August 22, 2011 | By Gil Kaan | Category: Theater and Dance

Andrew Friedman and Jerry Richardson star in ‘Stones in His Pockets’ at the Zephyr Theatre. / Photo by Suki Medencevic

Two phenomenally versatile actors currently command the Zephyr stage with their “Greater Tuna”-esque 15 character portrayals in playwright Marie Jones’ Olivier Award-winning “Stones in His Pockets.”

“Stones” takes place in modern-day County Kerry, Ireland, where a Hollywood film production takes over the village providing the locals 40 quid a day as movie extras. With the elusive Hollywood dream right at their front doorsteps, the locals have to deal with the pressing issues of scraping together a living, despair, suicides, and Irish camaraderie.

Andrew Friedman and Jerry Richardson play the main extras, Charlie and Jake, respectively, as well as various townsfolk and members of the film crew (both male and female).

“Stones” couldn’t be successful in communicating the various range of emotions with any cast of two any less talented than Friedman and Richardson. Friedman and Richardson play off each other so effortlessly, so perfectly in sync; you feel like you’re watching/listening to a fine-tuned, two-man symphony. Their many characters change onstage in seconds from one to another with a simple delineation of a shoulder slump or a hand on a hip; with only a kerchief as the characters’ main prop to become recognizable and distinct from each character. Occasional flubbed lines and dropped Irish accents can be excused, the two actors engross the audience so.

Zeljko Djukic directs this 105-minute production in a fast, smooth pace giving just enough time for the punch lines to register and for the serious ones to zero in deep.

This tricky stage device of having a pair of actors play multiple roles can easily backfire if the balance and chemistry of talent, both onstage and off, are not well matched. Fortunately, for the “Stones” audience, all are definitively aligned here.

“Stones in His Pockets” continues through Sept. 17. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (no performance Saturday, Aug. 27). The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., LA 90046. For tickets, visit or call (323) 960-7822.


Joe Straw #9 logo





Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stones in his Pockets by Marie Jones

By Joe Straw
“What is the Blarney Stone?” – Me

“It’s something stupid Americans come over and kiss.” – My Irish Friend

Go see this production!

Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones is a wonderful show that is brilliantly directed by Zeljko Djukic.  It is now playing at the Zephyr Theatre, presented by TUTA Theatre West Production, and playing August 19 through September 17, 2011.

Exciting from the opening moment when two characters get into the moment. This is a show that I flat out loved! And days later I’m still laughing. Performed by two actors who are very physical and emotionally connected and who breath an absolute fire into this rendition of Stone In His Pockets.

Go see this production!

This is what I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Visualize a bare stage, a white backdrop, a coat rack, some chairs, and a chest that serves as various pieces of furniture. Also visualize two great actors (playing both men and women) who with little or nothing on stage create these great characters in a setting that is thousands of miles away.

This is the last time I will say this:  Go see this production!

There is a delightful start to this play.  The lights are on.  The patrons are milling about, chatting about mundane things, and one actor appears on stage, staring at the folks around him.  The audience members are figuratively stepping over him getting to their seats.   He stares at them, their shoes, and dress, looks back a couple of times and goes back to his script. Moments later another actor appears.  Mind you, they are in costume, Irish dress, and still the audience is chatting away not realizing the show had started a few minutes earlier.

Getting into the moment. So wonderful when it happens!

The play is about a picturesque small Irish village and the filming of a big budgeted film, The Quiet Valley. And to give the film that extra Irish flavor it most certainly needs, extras are hired from the community.

The story starts as the extras are waiting to be called to the set.  Charlie (Andrew Friedman) has another purpose in being there.  Charlie is not really part of this particular village.  Nevertheless, he comes with a screenplay in hand, nervously waiting to give it to the right person who will help him realize his dream and help him produce it.

Jake (Jerry Richardson) is seated a few chairs away.  He tosses his hat into the air and waits to be noticed.

Uncomfortable with introductions, Charlie finds a common enemy in the catering truck.  Charlie fights for another piece of pie from the caterer and his request is summarily denied.  (Another humiliating defeat for the sorry plight of extras).

Immediately Jake commiserates with his dilemma and Charlie, in turn starts to tell him his story.  But Jake knows his story because Charlie, not immune to the ways of the Irish, was drinking gin in a local bar and spilling his guts to the patrons all of whom were related to Jake.

“Run like the hammers!” – To run very fast.

Charlie tells Jake he had to get out of the place he was living because his video store was going under and one gets the impression he owed a lot of people a lot of money.

Quick change in character!  (This is marvelously done through the use of scarfs.  Green is Friedman and Blue is Richardson.)

Simon (Friedman) and Aisling (Richardson) are the first and second assistant directors.  They call the extras into position and tell them to look “dispossessed”.  You’ve never seen a sight as these two looking “Irish” and “dispossessed” in front of a camera.

Between “dispossessed” takes Jake introduces his cousin Mickey as the “only surviving extra” from the John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man”

“John Wayne called him Wee Mickey!” – Jake

Quick change!

Mickey (Richardson) struggles to walk, feeling old, looking old and bowlegged but he has one thing the others don’t have, “experience”.  Mickey advises them to lay low because that is how one survives as an extra.

On the set Jake and Charlie sees Caroline Giovanni, a famous American actress.  To say there were slightly infatuated with her would be an outright lie.  They went nuts.

Quick change!

Caroline Giovanni (Friedman) pouts about not being able to speak with an authentic Irish accent with her dialogue coach, John (Richardson).

And in the commotion Charlie reveals to Jake that he has written a script for a movie and tries his best to give it to the airhead Aisling, the second assistant director. Aisling, with her head in Nirvana, flits away.

Later that night Charlie and Jake are at a local pub when (Quick change!) Sean (Richardson) approaches him, out of his mind, and lamenting that he didn’t get a part in the movie.  Charlie dismisses him as someone he doesn’t want to associate.

Quick change!

Jake sees Fin (Friedman) and asks him to try to help Sean.  Fin with his head sunken below his shoulders doesn’t think this job is for him.   He says he can’t do it.

Caroline Giovanni enters the bar and Charlie notices that Caroline is eyeing Jake.

“Caroline Giovanni is mixing with the Plebs!” – Charlie

This is Charlie’s chance to get his script to her via Jake.

Charlie then gets plastered with the crew.  He wakes up the next morning on top of the bar in his underwear. Slightly embarrassed he gathers his clothing and speaks to Jake about his encounter with Caroline.  It seems that it didn’t go well with the throngs of people surrounding Caroline and also Jake made a big mistake trying to pass himself off as a poet.  Caroline caught him in the lie.

Later Jake is called into Caroline’s trailer. But before he gets there he is grilled by Jock (Friedman).  Jock gives instruction to go in and get out in ten minutes.  (Yes, that’s enough time.)  When Jake arrives Caroline is in a yoga pose (downward dog) and flashing herself as a young nubile temptress.  Jake decides he’s not going to accommodate Caroline with her accent problems or her sexual proclivities.

Later that morning Jake and Charlie find out Sean has committed suicide by filling his pockets with stones and walking into the sea.

This is a wonderful production with a wonderful cast and a wonderful production crew.  What a wonderful way to spend the night knowing that all involved put a lot of time and effort into this production.

Andrew Friedman is a delightful comedic actor and nails each character with ease. There are so many funny moments one would need to go back again and again to catch them all. There are many accents in these roles and Friedman gave it his all. But, just as an observer, one notices a concentration and an objective in him that is never lost from the moment he enters the stage to the moment he leaves. This is a dedication to the craft that is unsurpassed.

Jerry Richardson is wonderful as well.  He is a gifted physical performer and he fits in nicely against his darker counterpoint. His footle ways give one to pay special attention to his craft. He also plays by his own rules, sticks to his guns, and manages to get what he has been searching for, a longtime collaborator. He does so many things wonderfully that one will remember and laugh for a long time to come.

Keljko Djukic, the director has done a marvelous job with these two actors. He moves them about with superior ease and uses the space to such an effect one believes that one is on a set.  The use of the scarves, well I’ve never seen that done before, quick change, on stage, right before our eyes.  Genius!  The ending also has a great moment that sends the audience out with a huge smile.  Stones in His Pockets was enjoyable from beginning to end.

Marie Jones, the writer, didn’t have a credit in the program and I wondered if she existed. She does, thankfully.  I found her in Wikipedia and all over the web.  Just a note to say that it is a delightfully written play, it pushed all the right buttons, was performed brilliantly, and was hilarious to boot.

Natasha Djukic did a marvelous job with the costumes and set design. Keith Parham, the Lighting Designer also did a fantastic job, one particularly enjoyed the bar scene.  Mark Schultz the Sound Designer did a nice job; everything seemed to fit the happenings on stage.

Samara Bay was the dialect coach and did a marvelous job.  The accent wasn’t so think you couldn’t understand it.

Take a friend and see this production.

By the way, take a friend who hasn’t had a job in a while and enjoy the moments.

The Zephyr Theatre, Hollywood, August 19 through September 17, 2011.

Announcing: Blank Theatre Reading of “Windows on the World” (Sept. 12) Benefits New Play Series


Kicking off the 20th season of its new play development program, the Living Room Series, Hollywood’s Blank Theatre will present an all-star reading of Windows On The World by Colette Keen on Monday, September 12 at 8pm at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. “The events of 9/11 had a profound impact on all of us. Many people chose to express their grief through art. We were moved by the depth of this play, and could think of no better way to pay tribute to the memory of those we lost, as well as honor those who survived,” said Daniel Henning, The Blank’s Founding Artistic Director.

Added the author, “This verbatim play focuses on the previously unheard perspectives of individuals who were in New York on 9/11. Windows On The World was inspired by two of my friends: Alicia Titus, a flight attendant, who died on the second plane that flew into the towers, and Judy Kaplan, who brought perspective, humor and wisdom to the day’s events with her tales of walking home from downtown to Queens and how her life has changed since. Poets, lawyers, administrators, artists, and fire fighters have shared their experiences and describe how their lives have changed as a result of this day of de-enlightenment. Also, for the first time, you will get to hear the first call to 911 dispatch made by FDNY firefighter (Ret.) John Jermyn, who shares his story of surviving the collapse of the towers.

Joining Noah Wyle on stage at the Stella Adler Theatre will be Academy Award nominee Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Mark Valley (Human Target, Boston Legal), Nicholas Brendon (Private Practice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Santaland Diaries at The Blank), Justina Machado (Six Feet Under, In the Heights), Perry Ojeda (Broadway and West End star), and Gale Harold (Queer as Folk, The Secret Circle), with more to be announced soon. This staged reading of Windows On The World will be directed by Kirsten Sanderson.

The Living Room Series (LRS) is The Blank’s New Play Development Program. Since its inception in 1991, the LRS has been giving writers an opportunity to grow, and stretch their talents in a safe and nurturing environment. Presented nearly every Monday night from Labor Day to Memorial Day, the LRS presents new plays free to the public. These are “workshop” presentations with a short rehearsal process. Upcoming play readings in the series include Memory Grove by Dean Farell Bruggeman (September 19), Flesh and Blood by Andrew Barrett (September 26), Bad Dog by Jennifer Hoppe-House (October 3), and Jersey Shore House by Michael Farrell (October 17).

Started in 1990 by Founding Artistic Director Daniel Henning, The Blank Theatre is Hollywood’s regional theatre, consistently offering some of the most high quality and entertaining productions in the area. Over its 20 year history, The Blank has won hundreds of awards, including every major award in Los Angeles for Outstanding Production, such as the LA Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, NAACP, and Back Stage Garland. The Blank continues to be at the forefront of providing high quality productions with a risk taking sensibility and entertaining experiences for theatregoers. With programs such as The Living Room Series and its annual nationwide Young Playwrights Festival, The Blank Theatre is committed to developing excellence in artistic talent and providing the opportunity for artists to take bold risks. For more information, please visit

Tickets are on sale now. Admission is $50 for general seating, and $75 for reserved seating and a post-performance reception with the cast. Visit, or call (323) 661-9827. The Stella Adler Theatre is located at 6773 Hollywood Boulevard (at Highland), in Hollywood.

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Noah Wyle
Virginia Madsen












(pictured: Noah Wyle and Virginia Madsen)

Announcing: New York’s Finest, The Leading Men of Broadway – One Night Only, Friday, September 16



Chris Isaacson Presents has announced a one-night-only concert event at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Friday, September 16 at 8:30pm. New York’s Finest: The Leading Men of Broadway will star (in alphabetical order) David Burnham, Brandon Victor Dixon, Sam Harris, Chad Kimball, Levi Kreis, and Ace Young. Harris will direct, and the music director is Brent Crayon.

Five of Broadway’s finest young leading men will heat up the open-air stage of the Ford Amphitheatre, recreating the original performances that thrilled Broadway audiences in hits such as Wicked, Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Memphis, the recent revival of West Side Story, The Lion King, the recent revival of Hair, Sweeney Todd, Jesus Christ Superstar, and many others. Director Sam Harris promises, “a powerful and seductive evening of extraordinary entertainment with a rare combination of New York’s hottest stars.”

David Burnham was in the original cast of the Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza, performing on the Tony Awards and the PBS special Live From Lincoln Center. Most recently, he appeared off-Broadway in the hit musical revue The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, sharing the stage with Lillias White, Rachel York, Sally Mayes and Billy Stritch. His other stage credits also include Wicked, Jesus Christ Superstar, Peggy Sue Got Married, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Assassins, to name only a few. For LML Music, David has recorded two CDs, David Burnham and One Day. For more, visit

Brandon Victor Dixon received a Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of Harpo in The Color Purple, appeared in House of Flowers at City Center Encores, and he was in the off-Broadway production of The Scottsboro Boys. He portrayed the Adult Simba in the National Tour of The Lion King, and Brandon has many television credits, including One Life to Live, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and The Good Wife. For more, visit

Sam Harris has been lauded by critics as one of the most powerful and versatile forces on the stage. His numerous appearances on television and concerts at Carnegie Hall have become legendary. On Broadway, he received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in The Life, and, also on Broadway, he appeared in Grease and The Producers. Sam toured the country in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he has appeared in many other productions. Along with performing in New York’s Finest, he will serve as director. For more, visit

Chad Kimball is a 2010 Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominee for his role in Memphis. Other Broadway credits include Lennon, Into the Woods (2002 revival), The Civil War, and Good Vibrations. Off Broadway, Chad appeared in Finian’s Rainbow, My Life with Albertine, and Godspell. Regional theatre credits include Sweeney Todd, Baby, and Little Fish (Blank Theatre Company in Los Angeles). For more, visit

Levi Kreis won the Tony and Outer Critics Circle Awards in 2010 for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in the Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet after originating the role in Chicago, where he received a Jeff Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Levi is a multi-award-winning recording artist, and he has toured nearly 400 cities nationwide with three critically acclaimed albums to his credit. For more, visit

Ace Young is a recording artist and Grammy Award-nominated songwriter with number one songs in both the United States and Sweden. In addition to working on his own music, he is constantly collaborating with the best songwriters and producers for publishers and record labels around the world. Ace has appeared on television shows (American Idol), and has starred in the Broadway productions of Hair and Grease. For more, visit

Chris Isaacson Presents has created, produced and promoted over 450 events since Isaacson formed his company in 2004. From small clubs to major theatres, Isaacson has produced some of the most influential stars of his generation, including Adam Lambert (American Idol), Lea Michele (Spring Awakening, Glee), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Grammy Award nominee Natasha Bedingfield, three-time Grammy nominee Taylor Dayne, Grammy Award-winner Paula Cole, and more. Isaacson’s concerts have been featured on Access Hollywood, Extra, KABC’s On The Red Carpet, KTLA Morning News, and in both the Los Angeles Times and New York Post. Isaacson is also the creator/founder of LA’s renowned Upright Cabaret, which has been redefining the cabaret milieu for a new generation of audiences in Los Angeles since 2005. For more information, visit

New York’s Finest: The Leading Men of Broadway will play one performance only, on Friday, September 16, at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Boulevard East, in Los Angeles, 90068. Showtime is 8:30pm, and tickets are on sale now. Admission is $40 for reserved seating, and a $75 VIP package includes premium seating, post-performance artist meet and greet, and much more. Student and senior discounts are also available. To purchase tickets, go to or call (323) 461-3673. Tickets for reserved seating purchased prior to September 9 receive a $5 discount.

For more information about this and other Chris Isaacson Presents shows, including scheduled performers, showtimes, and tickets, visit

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New York's Finest