A Hollywood movie, The Quiet Valley, is being filmed in rural County Kerry, Ireland, and two local men, Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon, are among the many who have been cast as extras. (The two actors who play these characters also play all the other characters in the play.)
The two men are beginning to get acquainted over lunch at the catering truck and are soon joined by Mickey, another local extra who was also an extra in The Quiet Man with John Wayne filmed many years ago in the same area. Next to appear are Simon and Aisling, two assistant directors, trying to get the extras back on the filming set before the daylight is gone.
Caroline Giovanni, the movie's star, finally appears on the set with John, her accent coach, who is trying to improve her bad Irish dialect. The filming finally resumes, as Jake and Charlie continue their conversation.
Charlie, it seems, has a film manuscript of his own and badly wants an opportunity to show it to the movie people. However, shooting for the day soon ends, and the extras move to the locker room to change into their everyday street clothes. While there, Sean appears. He is a local lad who wants to be an extra but wasn't hired because he is usually under the influence of drugs or drink. He is angry that others were hired but not him, and he stomps off cursing: “You're a nobody, just like me and she won't give me a job.”
Jake, Charlie, and Sean are among the many others who gather that evening at the local pub. Surprisingly, Caroline and some of her entourage also appear, trying to soak up some of the local atmosphere. Sean, angry that Caroline won't give him the time of day and that he still hasn't been hired, bitterly leaves again.
Later, Caroline, still looking for local flavor for her character, invites Jake to join her, or rather, she joins him. She invites him to go back to the hotel for a drink with her. Jake, of course, thinks this is his big chance to make love to the beautiful star. Of course, Jake's attempts to impress her are awkward and over-inflated, but the two do talk for some time as Caroline tries to mimic his accent-and she does invite him to her trailer again tomorrow. In his mind, she is falling for him, but in hers he is simply a good way to practice her Irish dialect.
As shooting resumes, news is brought that Sean Harkin has drowned himself. When the divers found him, his pockets were full of stones.
As Act Two begins, filming is again in progress. A flashback scene takes the characters back to a twelve-year-old Sean Harkin and his friend, Fin, who dream of going to America to become a movie star, a dream that obviously never saw the light of day.
The film director, Clem, is trying to keep the shooting moving along before clouds come in a ruin the light, but the locals, grieving Sean's death, are not in the mood. Clem expresses his sympathy, but makes it clear that shooting will go on the next day, and no one will be allowed time off to attend Sean's funeral. That evening, Jake and Charlie attend Sean's wake. In a flashback scene, we learn that Caroline Giovanni had caused Sean Harkin to be humiliated and thrown out of the tavern, the night before he committed suicide.
The next day, shooting is interrupted because one of the stars is allergic to the two truckloads of flowers that had been ordered for the wedding scene. In a public relations move, Caroline orders the flowers to be sent to the chapel where Sean Harkin's funeral is to be held. Jake confronts her about her hypocrisy and humiliation of his cousin, Sean: “The way you and everybody else treated him like he was a piece of muck on their boots. . . . You had him thrown out of the pub, in his own town in front of his own people, think about that for humiliation.”
Jake suggests that he and Charlie write a movie script; a true story about a film being made and the suicide of a young man. They get no encouragement from the movie people. The movie shooting goes on, but Jake and Charlie grow more excited and animated as they make plans for their own movie, to be called Stones in His Pockets.