At the Hatbox Theatre in Concord, the playbill for “Stones in His Pockets” promised me: “Two Actors. Fifteen characters. Cows.” This would be my kind of show!
The actors were Scott H. Severance and Sven Wiberg. One minute Sven was Charlie Conlan, an extra with an Irish accent for the movie “Quiet Valley,” filming on location in County Kerry, Ireland. Then he grabbed a scarf, spoke with a fake British accent, swung his hips as he walked across the stage, and he was Caroline Giovanni, a glamorous American movie star. The audience giggled, not at his instant transition to a woman, but because he did it so well.
Scott started as Jake Quinn, another extra in “Quiet Valley,” but he variously portrayed a 17-year-old; an accent coach; and then my favorite, Mickey – a grumpy man with bad posture who was the last surviving extra from the John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man.” Most of the roles were linked to a unique item. Mickey sucked on a pipe, Caroline wore a shawl, the accent coach had a neck scarf. But these were just props; Scott and Sven assumed the essence of each character. I was never confused and often enchanted as these two actors played their many roles.
Cows never make it on-stage, but still, they were the heroes because of… well, their cow-ness. Let me explain. Everyone loves cows. When driving through the countryside, are you soothed by the sight of cattle lying in a field? Do you have a desire to hug a heifer (or at least pet one) or maybe feed her a handful of long grass? Imagine a field full of peaceful cattle waiting to be scratched, brushed or fed. Now imagine that's your job, and what that would do for your soul.
Cattle care about food, affection, and their babies. They teach us to value family. Cows don't need money, entertainment, or the latest cell phone and automobile. They are content to care for their young, munch on hay and hang out with their friends. Cattle develop lifelong bonds with each other. I've seen two cows, who have been separated, run to each other when reunited and spend hours licking and grooming the other.
In the play, schoolboy Sean Harkin gives a classroom presentation in the show enumerating some of the benefits conferred by cattle. They not only feed us by providing milk and meat, when they “go to the bathroom” (his words) they make fertilizer. According to his buddies, Sean had wanted to raise cattle – until drugs and his desire to be in the movies took over his life, leading to his death.
As a farmer, I love cows as much as Sean ever did, and it's appropriate that they are credited with offering a wholesome and fulfilling life path. Of course, if Sean had followed his dream, it would have been a much different play (and difficult to stage). But cows really do have the ability to heal. It's one of their superpowers.
"Stones in His Pockets" will be at the Rochester Playhouse on these dates:
Saturday, March 23 (7:30pm)
Sunday, March 24 (7:30pm)
Friday, March 29 (7:30pm)
Saturday, March 30 (7:30pm)
Sunday, March 31 (7:30pm)