By Rosalind Friedman


The Realistic Joneses is one of the very best but saddest plays I’ve seen. There were people laughing in the audience, and I did have a chuckle or two. However, for the most part, Will Eno’s hundred minute intense exploration of how people communicate in the throes of death and disease is yes -- “realistic” -- and ultimately depressing.


What distinguishes The Realistic Joneses from other similar dissections is the word play; here it is angular and concrete in which the playwright tries to puncture the obvious. On David Zinn’s bucolic set, capturing an outdoor country environment, with help by Mark Barton, whose lighting well-defines the different spaces framed by screened-doors, we meet two unrelated couples named Jones: The older is Jennifer and Bob, the younger, Pony and John.


Johanna Day gives an incredibly sensitive portrayal of Jen, a wife trying to help her husband through a fatal condition. She begs him to talk, to engage in conversation about the subject and other things, but he is unwilling and unable to do so. The very natural Tracy Letts as Bob, rumpled and weighed down by silent worries, is harboring anger. He yearns to go back to work, but, of course, cannot since he is undergoing treatment by a specialist for what is called The Harrison-Levy syndrome. “Tell me where to be and what to take,” he says truculently.


Adorable Parker Posey as Pony and her husband, John, played solidly by Glenn Fitzgerald, are the new neighbors. Pony responds with deadpan and clipped responses that reminded me of Keely Smith (How many remember or know that wonderful singer?!). This anxious woman has moved from the city to the mountains -- hoping for a new start. She suspects something is wrong with John, but has no clue that he had the same condition that Bob has and is there to see the same doctor.


Nothing much happens here, if you don’t count the liaison between Pony and Bob and the reaching out between Jennifer and John. Director Sam Gold moves the four around and across the grass smoothly. The Realistic Joneses, WHICH PLAYS ONLY THROUGH MAY 12, leaves you in the dark asking questions: not a bad thing.


This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO.

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