Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses is far from conventional Broadway fare-and what a relief! What is perhaps the quirkiest show to play the mainstream is also one of the funniest, most profound, and well-acted pieces of theater this season.
Broadway can too often be an outlet for celebrity heavy hitters, clocking in some legit stage time between projects. This can work to a degree; It brings people to the seats and put smiles on the faces of producers. Sometimes though, film and television actors can fall flat when there is no camera to catch their nuanced close ups. This season has challenged that perception. We need not look any further than Bryan Cranston’s rousing portrayal of LBJ in All the Way , Michelle Williams’ heartbreaking debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, or Tyne Daly’s flawless performance in Mothers and Sons to prove that Hollywood is delivering the goods this year.
The praise continues with this top notch cast, directed with precision by Sam Gold. Toni Collette (Jennifer), Michael C. Hall (John) , Tracy Letts (Bob) , and Marisa Tomei (Pony) star as two pairs of neighbors living in Small-town, USA. Jennifer and Bob are reserved, discontent, and guarded. Bob is suffering from a medical condition which helps explain his slightly caustic but winning demeanor. His “glass half full” outlook is perfectly pessimistic. “I don’t think anything good is going to happen to us”, he says, “But, you know, what are you going to do”. His wife matches his defeatist attitude with her wry observations. Upon defending husband Bob’s name during a conversation with John, she states, “I like it. It’s easy to remember. I think dyslectics find it comforting.”
Meanwhile, John and Pony bring a fresh-spirited naiveté to their cynical new friends. Both seem delightfully dim on the surface yet, like Jennifer and Bob, they continually search for deeper meaning “out there”. All of our players are searching for a greater purpose in this existential new dramatic comedy. Thanks to Eno’s crisp writing and humorous observations, there is a realness to their quest that will be instantly relatable to anyone living a human experience. When the curtain falls at the Lyceum theatre, you’ll be glad you decided to keep up with these Joneses.
The Realistic Joneses is now playing on Broadway at the the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th street (between 6th avenue and Broadway). For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com, call 212.239.6200 or go to the box office.