Today, I drove across the river to see Keegan theatre's Stones in his Pockets. The national tour of this piece rolled through town several years ago, and Rep Stage produced it more recently. My buddies at Wayside Theatre did it only a year or so ago. I didn't see any of those productions, so I was pleased to get the chance to catch the show here. I have only seen a handful of Keegan productions over the years. They do an eclectic mix of small, intimate pieces, new works, and big, blowzy musicals with gangs of people (they just closed Man of La Mancha yesterday at a different location). Usually, their work has an Irish bent, but that is not a hard and fast directive; one thing I admire about the company is their determination to do whatever the hell play they want, regardless of the logistics, or the timing, or whatever. Thus, 1776 graced their boards a couple of years ago, in a production with which I had some trouble. I noticed the same sort of trouble with The Hostage, another of their large-scale productions. The company is non-union, which gives them the freedom to tackle these big shows on a shoestring, but as happens in such instances, the audience gets one or two strong performances in the leads, surrounded by performances somewhat less than. (I've noticed the same phenomenon at Washington Shakespeare Company.)
But anytime I've caught one of Keegan's smaller shows, I've been impressed. They did a bang-up production of Picasso at the Lapine Agile a long while back, and their current effort is even better. On a blank stage with only a few chairs and a few boots, Keegan's cast of two creates the inhabitants of an Irish village being invaded by a Hollywood movie crew. The show is a delight, and the players are adept at the differentiation of character so necessary in a piece such as this. Matthew Keenan, who is new to me, lends a lot of heart to his roles, particularly the central role of Jake, and the walk-on role of Sean, a character which greatly affects the tone of the piece. Eric Lucas, whom I have enjoyed several times before at Keegan, is equally fine as Charlie, the second protagonist, and is also a hoot as the film's director and first AD.
I know I can be rather a prig about companies such as Keegan, sniffing that they should be on the road to becoming union houses and all that, but when I see one of their intimate productions, like the one described above, I can't really fault their direction too much. They are doing a lot right.