Review: Spooky Action cast revels in the wit and profundity of Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses.
By Tim Treanor
DC Theatre Scene
There is out there, and then there is Will Eno. An interviewer once asked him one of those personality-in-a-nutshell questions. If you could pick any superpower for yourself, he asked the playwright, which one would you select?
“The former Soviet Union,” Eno replied.
The ways by which words are commodified, commercialized, weaponized and manipulated are Eno’s stock in trade. Thus, in The Flu Season, a doctor tells parents how to get to the place which holds their dead daughter’s body. “Turn right at the giant ice cream cone,” he says. In Thom Pain (based on nothing) the solitary narrator tells a series of bizarre stories, each of them impossible on their own terms. (“‘You’ve changed!’ she told me on the night we met.”)
And in The Realistic Joneses, now being given a vigorous and thoughtful production at Spooky Action Theater on 16th Street NW, Bob Jones (Todd Scofield), Jennifer Jones (Lisa M. Hodsoll), John Jones (Brandon McCoy) and Pony Jones (Amanda Forstrom) use words in order not to communicate with each other. Provided with an opportunity to open their hearts, they trivialize their lives instead. Jennifer asks her husband, Bob, who is critically ill, whether he would like to talk. Bob points out that he just talked about repainting the house. Pony admires Bob and Jennifer’s salt and pepper shakers; Bob replies that “they were made in a factory.”
Posted by Mary Ann Johson
MD Theatre Guide
People can be fragile. Marriages can be fragile. Life is fragile. These are the themes of this multi-layered lovely little work about two couples who happen to be named Jones. One couple are lifelong residents of the small town where they live and work; the other couple have just moved there—ostensibly because they wanted to live in a small town with a sense of community.
It’s not that simple. Bob, deep in denial and self-ignorance, has a serious, degenerative medical condition. His wife, Jennifer, is a practical lady who believes in knowing as much information as possible and manages her husband’s illness and their lives. The new neighbors, John and Pony Jones, have a secret. It turns out that John has the same illness and may be keeping it from his wife to protect her.
Over the course of a few weeks, the couples meet individually and as couples. Their interactions are full of misunderstandings and connections, often both at the same time. Both couples are isolated and yet drawn to each other. As played by the four actors, their interactions are so believable it makes you ache for the fumbling efforts of humans in general to connect.
Playwright Will Eno talks about ‘The Realistic Joneses’ at Spooky Action Theater
By Celia Wren
The Realistic Joneses” is the only play by Will Eno to have reached Broadway, notwithstanding his work on the misleadingly titled “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical.” Some might see his scant presence on the Great White Way as testifying to the limited appeal of his stylistically daring, plot-light, intermittently dark and deadpan scripts, which have been widely performed in less glitzy arenas. But Eno doesn’t yearn for popularity, in any case. “I am trying to write things with a purpose and meaning and actionable point to them,” he says. “So I don’t get too hung up on whether somebody likes something or not.”
A now-wry, now-sober riff on marriage and the awareness of death, featuring two sometimes awkward and secretive small-town couples who share a surname, “Realistic Joneses” is receiving a Washington area premiere at Spooky Action Theater. Under the direction of Gillian Drake, Brandon McCoy (“Veep”) and other actors interpret a play that, Eno says, acknowledges “the way we can sort of carry our own mortality around like it’s a big, dirty secret. And in wanting to hide that from other people, we end up accidentally hiding all sorts of other parts of ourselves.”
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