MR ENO’S NEIGHBORHOOD IS THE MOST INTRIGUING, PARTICULARLY WHEN THE JONESES COME HOME.
‘THE REALISTIC JONESES’ IS THE PERFECT WORD PLAY TO KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES,
IT IS A WONDERFUL NEW PLAY FROM WILL ENO
Will Eno’s THE REALISTIC JONESES is now on stage at American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater through April 3rd. Directed by Loretta Greco she has assembled the perfect ACT company players to work out this word play of fear and laugh out absurdity. The baffling beauty of Eno’s meet the neighbors, can’t really be described or categorized. A basic simple story, yet Eno's keeps the word play layered with questions, and deep thoughts, the play may not work for many but it is a nice hit in the head, or could fly over our heads. Eno is a modern young playwright who first came to attention in 2005 with Thom Pain (based on nothing) and whose Middletown won the Horton Foote Award. JONESES was first staged at Yale Rep in 2012 and went on to Broadway in 2014. ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff says: "The remarkably inventive Will Eno takes us inside the marriages of two women both married to men with a bizarre affliction that begins to rob them of language and of logic. Eno's wild imagination takes us inside these marriages in what is surely one of the most surprising family dramas ever.”
The story is set in a large backyard between two homes and both couples are named Jones. The four players do their best to make sense of the Joneses’ disjointed exchanges. For the most part the 1 hour 40 min play is lacking a plot, but the dialogue between the four are completely intense. The four actors are excellent, the older Jones played by Rod Gnapp and Rebecca Watson and the younger couple Allison Jean White and James Wagner. The story's clever dialogue is told in short scenes that are understandably absurd, amusing as well as tender in their honesty and affection. Eno has an unique aptitude with words and meanings, conversation, language and expectations. His characters speak and respond with non sequiturs that are unedited and could be improv and are both funny and terrifying. The awkwardness between these two couples is also easily very intimate.
The first couple we meet are Bob and Jennifer who are in their early 40's and experiencing a bit of marital discord. He is grouchy and Jen is tired of him being this way and trying to steer him toward a happier place. Bob suffers from an illness that he is resisting, a degenerative illness that affects his memory and use of language. Their new neighbors, John and Pony, enter into the scene. As regular and unremarkable as Bob and Jennifer seem, the younger John and Pony are slightly off and very odd with an affectionate charm. They are both misfit lovers endearing in their oddball way. Both men are suffering from the same, degenerative illness. Bob's wife deals with her husband's illness but Pony is in the dark about her Mr. Jones. The situation is about to shift around Bob and Jennifer because she wants to help him deal with it. Bob prefers ignoring it even though they have moved to this town to see a doctor who is at the forefront of experimental research for treatment. The other couple have come there for the same reason, only Pony is blind to John's needs. While John reaches out to Jen, Bob reaches out to Pony, and the Joneses form a rare friendship.
Rod Gnapp gives a first rate performance as Bob Jones. He plays the baffled neighbor with subtle charm. Rebecca Watson is excellent as the awkwardly but positive Jennifer. James Wagner is appealing as John Jones and Allison Jean White gives an engaging performance as Pony. The set design by Andrew Boyce is expansive and open in the connected yards with a wonderful cyclorama of night stars and daytime trees. Loretta Greco's direction is fast paced and keeps the word play of Eno’s style charming and scary, letting the comedy unfold smoothly. The sublime give and take of each player's every day common circumstances are very profound. The final line from the play says it all and would no way give anything away from the unpredictable fault of an Eno play. “I like mints, I think I will have a mint now”.
American Conservatory Theater
The Realistic Joneses
By Will Eno, Directed by Loretta Greco
Through April 3rd at ’s Geary Theater,
105 minutes no Intermission
Geary Stage 415 Geary St., San Francisco.
Tickets are $25-$105. Call 415-749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.
Photo’s by Kevin Berne