Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses is a difficult play to categorize. Is it a drama or a comedy? Realistic or surrealistic? Life-affirming or death-obsessed?
The answer to all these questions is “yes.” You can decide for yourself by attending the Jolee & Too Soon Old production that’s running at the Playhouse in San Anselmo through Sept. 25.
Bob and Jennifer Jones (Joey Hoeber and Denise Tyrrell) are a retired couple enjoying the serenity of their backyard (and not talking), when a ruckus by their trash cans announces the arrival of new neighbors John and Pony Jones (Cameron Stuckey and Heather Mathieson). The younger couple has brought a bottle of wine over, and soon the awkward conversations in which new neighbors often find themselves begin. And never end.
It seems that Bob has been stricken by a (fictional) malady characterized by pain, bouts of blindness and loss of memory. Bob isn’t dealing with it well—if at all—while Jennifer finds herself more-or-less a full-time caretaker for her husband. The arrival of the new Joneses might distract Bob and Jennifer from their woes, but it turns out John and Pony’s quirkiness masks woes of their own.
At its heart, The Realistic Joneses is about the need for human connections and the fear of the disconnect that comes with aging, illness and mortality. That sense of disconnection permeates this production, particularly in the performances. Both teams of actors do well in their interactions within their respective groups, but there’s a real disconnect in their relationships with each other.
Perhaps it was director Aimee Greenberg’s or even playwright Eno’s intention to show that the overwhelming force applied in the search for human connections often leads to an opposite result. If that was the intent here, it succeeded, though it makes some of the more personal interactions that occur between the couples less believable.
Hoeber does a good job embodying the frustrations of a man knowingly trapped in a failing body, while Tyrrell seethes with resentment over the unfairness of life. There’s no doubt of the love between them, but they both know things will get worse. Stuckey and Mathieson’s characters seem to be operating in semi-blissful obliviousness, and much of the show’s humor (and there is a lot, surprising for the subject matter) emanates from them.
What does it all mean? Exactly.‘The Realistic Joneses’ runs through Sept. 25 at the Playhouse in San Anselmo, 27 Kensington Rd. Fridays & Saturdays, 7:30pm; Sundays, 2pm. $25. Proof of vaccination and masking required to attend. playhousesananselmo.org