There's always something magical about the pairing of veteran actors Joe Conley Golden and Tom Willmorth.
To patrons of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the Boise-area actors are familiar fixtures--most notably in comic roles, and in particular as the Fool Squad, which they formed over a decade ago to bring delightful levity to ISF's greenshows.
Director Tracy Sunderland, also a longtime ISF player, has wisely cast Golden and Willmorth in the two-person comedy/drama Stones in His Pockets. Belfast-born playwright Marie Jones' bittersweet story surrounds two extras on a movie set in a small rural Irish community and their quest to stand out in a world of mediocrity.
Charlie (Golden) is the former owner of a failed video store, but remains an eternal optimist who aspires to be a screenwriter and performer, continually shoving his self-penned movie script under the nose of anyone who will listen. Jake (Willmorth) is more jaded, having recently returned to Ireland after a short, unsuccessful stay in New York after failing to find the American dream.
The duo strike up a friendship, poking fun at the stereotypical film being shot--gaggingly titled The Quiet Valley--and the movie cast and crew's various idiosyncrasies, including the leading lady's poor Irish accent. The mood of the play and its cackling lead characters turns decidedly darker, though, when another disillusioned extra--Jake's young cousin Sean--unexpectedly drowns himself.
Golden and Willmorth play all of the play's dozen or so characters with spirited bravado, and Sunderland stages most of the show's scenes in rapid-fire succession, utilizing the talents of her seasoned thespians to the fullest.
One moment, Willmorth is brooding in the guise of the depressed Jake, the next he's got an imaginary phone cupped to his ear as he struts about as the overeager director's assistant Aisling, then hunching over to become Mickey, an elderly extra who worked on John Wayne's The Quiet Man.
Golden is equally adept at morphing from happy-go-lucky Charlie to overbearing Scottish security man Jock, then channeling his feminine side as Caroline, the movie's self-involved American star, who takes a sudden romantic interest in Jake -- and his Irish brogue, which she hopes to copy.
While it's fun to watch Willmorth and Golden jump seamlessly between characters, the quick transitions make it sometimes difficult to follow the story--particularly early on--and dampen the dramatic effect brought on by Sean's suicide. There simply isn't time to absorb the impact the death has on the other characters.
The minimal set--piles of stones acting as a rock wall overlooking the ocean, a spotlight, a couple of chairs, and a wardrobe--proves most effective during a handful of intimate scenes near the wardrobe and rock wall where Jake and Charlie contemplate life's often rough road, and their determination by movie's--and play's--end to pursue their dreams no matter how many bumps they may encounter along the way.
Stones in His Pockets, by Marie Jones, directed by Tracy Sunderland. Dec. 14-17 and 21-23. Tickets are $28.50 Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. and $24 for the Sat. matinee. Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St. For more information or tickets, call 442-3232 or 331-9224 or visit www.ictickets.com.