Category Archive for: ‘Go See’

The Realistic Joneses is a must see production at A.C.T.

(L to R) John Jones (James Wagner) and his wife Pony (Allison Jean White) meet their new neighbors Jennifer Jones (Rebecca Watson) and her husband Bob Jones (Rod Gnapp) in Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses playing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater through April 3, 2016. Photo by Kevin Berne.

(L to R) John Jones (James Wagner) and his wife Pony (Allison Jean White) meet their new neighbors Jennifer Jones (Rebecca Watson) and her husband Bob Jones (Rod Gnapp) in Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses playing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater through April 3, 2016. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The Realistic Joneses: Comedy/Drama by Will Eno. Directed Loretta Greco. American Conservatory Theater Company (A.C.T.), A.C.T.’s Geary Theater,415 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. www.sct-sf.org or 414-749-2228. March 9—April 3, 2016.

The Realistic Joneses is a must see production at A.C.T. Rating: ★★★★★

Will Eno has emerged as the darling of the modern theater world. He became a celebrity in 2004 when his solo play Thom Pain (based on nothing) became the hit of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His Broadway debut was not until 10 years later with The Realistic Joneses that further solidified his dramatic image. Christopher Isherwood, the New York Times drama critic, labelled him as a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.

That label is only partially true since both playwrights have a commanding control of language. Whereas Beckett tends to be obtuse Eno is grounded, actually takes flight, in the real world. And so it is with the A.C.T.’s staging of his most recent work.

It is prophetic that in the first scene Eno inserts the dialog, “We don’t talk. We are throwing words around.” It is a self-deprecating remark that tends to hide the fact that his play explores not only the ways we communicate but also how we perceive life and in the case of his 4 characters how we realistically perceive death.

Those four characters are two couples named Jones. The older are Bob and Jennifer and the younger John and Pony. Bob has an incurable brain disease called Harriman Leavey syndrome. Do not bother to look it up since it does not exist in the real world only in the realistic world of the Joneses.

Into Bob and Jennifer’s world intrude the new neighbors John and Penny with the proverbial bottle of wine. In the course of the conversations Jennifer reveals the medical situation of Bob and later we learn that John has the same malady and he too is in the unnamed mountain town to be treated by Dr. Leavey who lives there. Whereas Jennifer is devoted to and has been caring for Bob, Penny has yet to learn that such care is a drain on a marriage.

Eno creates a series of scenes in this 90 minute play without intermission that explores the interaction of the couples with Penny and Bob being attracted to each other and John being attracted to Jennifer who rebuffs any intimacy. In their conversations riddled with incomplete thoughts and unfinished sentences Eno adds layer on layer to this intriguing play that is rife with humor and thoughtfulness.

Unlike Beckett who often deals in fantasy worlds, Eno lives in the present but is no less intellectual. His simple, often declarative, dialog carries levels of meaning and understanding without being didactic. He cleverly inserts a brilliant scene between the two men that is accentuated with a motion detecting spotlight.

To make the play work requires superb acting and directing. Rod Gnapp portrays to perfection the taciturn Bob who accepts his morality with stoicism and unintended humor. He is equally matched by Rebecca Watson’s strong willed Jennifer whose strength is beginning to crumble as she responds to Bob’s, “You want me to be helpless.” James Wagner as the young Jones has the most difficult role and succeeds in earning the empathy of the audience.  Penny’s buoyant personality shrouded in confusion is conveyed expertly by Allison Jean White.

Loretta Greco, the artistic director of the avant-garde Magic Theatre, is a perfect choice as director. She gives her characters meaningful interaction and allows Eno’s words to resonate. She is aided by the terrific backyard set with identical houses framing the stage with trees gracing the rear stage and a minimum of furniture. Eno bookends the play allowing Bob to say: “There’s so much crap in this world,”, and “Words, too many words” as he offers Jennifer a mint. This is a must see production.

CAST: Rod Gnapp (Bob Jones), Rebecca Watson (Jennifer Jones), James Wagner (John Jones), and Allison Jean White (Pony Jones)

CREATIVE TEAM: Robert Wierzel (Lighting Designer), Brandin Baron (Costume Designer), Andrew Boyce (Set Designer), and David Van Tieghem (Sound Designer)

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.