There’s a scene during Will Eno’s THE REALISTIC JONESES where “Jennifer” is watching fireworks and her husband, “Bob,” comments on them. She’s talking about one thing while he’s being metaphorical but its done in such a strange and beautiful way that you have to marvel at the playwright’s skill and talent for writing existential dialogue while continuing his narrative. Think Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” or “Waiting for Godot” infused with a more modern style.
JONSES is the story of two couples. “Bob” and “Jennifer” are older and enjoy quiet nights in the backyard. “Pony” and “John” are younger. They just moved in to the house down the street. While very different, they have more in common than anyone – except for John – knows.
Writing a play like this takes remarkable skill. It’s also a remarkable skill to be able to act this genre of play. Carter Bratton (“John”) makes big, bold choices and they all work. He’s hilarious and tragic, sometimes within the same breath. In her director’s notes, Dale Hodges admits that there were times the actors had trouble “making sense of the conflicting statements” in the script. Bratton is confident with the material and I found myself missing him when he wasn’t on stage.
John’s wife is played by the always consistent Miranda McGee (“Pony”). She isn’t given as much to do as Bratton, but she digs in to the character’s emotional arc and at the emotional climax she shows why I think she’s one of our cities must unchallenged actresses. She needs tougher, juicer dramatic roles.
“Bob” and “Jennifer” are acted by Phil Fiorini and Mindy Seibert. Fiorini was outstanding in Ensemble’s HANDS ON A HARDBODY last year; here he makes interesting choices and plays the character in a different way than I would have. That’s not judgment, just observation. Seibert appears more comfortable here than she was that last time I saw her (in OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY at New Edgecliff) though her unconvincing F-bombs (there’s only a couple) took me out of the moment.
There were several lines that conveyed some confusion from the actors about the author’s intent; something Eno probably suffers from often. He’s a curious playwright. While all four actors are talented and proficient, it’s Bratton’s bombastic charisma that carries the ensemble
The sound design by Sebastian Botzow accentuated the scenes well. Garry Davidson’s lighting design confused me (or perhaps there were tech issues on opening night) as there was a section of the stage that was lit during transitions that allowed us to see scurrying actors going from scene to scene. I expect more from this usually uber-professional company.
THE REALISTIC JONESES is an unusual script but one that works very well in the intimate space of the Clifton Performance Theater. You need to be this close to the action for it to work – and it works very well. It’s definitely worth seeing.
THE REALISTIC JONESES plays at the Clifton Performance Theatre through February 6th. Click here for more information.