Awe­some Eno

NOW Magazine - - STAGE - JOR­DAN BIMM

the re­Al­is­tic Joneses by Will Eno ñ

(Tar­ragon, 30 Bridg­man). Runs to De­cem­ber 18. $29-$65. tar­ragonthe­atre. com. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 43. Rat­ing: nnnn

Will Eno’s long, pen­sive look be­hind the white picket fences of present-day sub­ur­ban Amer­ica is full of awk­ward­ness and lone­li­ness, but thanks to a strong cast, it still feels uplifting.

The play, which pre­miered on Broad­way in 2014, opens with 50-some­things Jennifer (Su­san Coyne) and Bob (Tom Bar­nett) Jones, a cou­ple who don’t have much to say to each other any­more, strug­gling to make af­ter-din­ner small talk in their quaint Any­town, USA, back­yard. Their laboured conversation is in­ter­rupted by the ar­rival of their more out­go­ing new neigh­bours, Pony (Jenny Young) and John (Pa­trick McManus), who hap­pen to share their last name. The weird “odd cou­ples” re­la­tion­ship that de­vel­ops be­tween the four Joneses – a fluc­tu­at­ing mix of ten­sion and ten­der­ness – ex­poses the foibles, in­se­cu­ri­ties and per­sonal fail­ures of each of these seem­ingly “nor­mal” char­ac­ters.

The rather dark sub­ject mat­ter – a sub­plot in­volves bad health news – is

kept in check by Eno’s con­sis­tently funny di­a­logue, which traf­fics in bizarre non se­quiturs and awk­ward si­lences. John, McManus’s blue-col­lar re­pair­man, is the epi­cen­tre for this; con­stantly drop­ping cringe-wor­thy anti-jokes, he be­comes the show’s stand­out char­ac­ter.

De­spite Eno’s ex­ag­ger­a­tion of grace­less in­ter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, there is, as the ti­tle sug­gests, a strong com­mit­ment to re­al­ism here that di­rec­tor Richard Rose and set de­signer Char­lotte Dean con­vey nicely. Uti­liz­ing a very cool-look­ing ro­tat­ing stage set-up, Dean presents al­ter­nat­ing views of Jennifer and Bob’s back­yard and Pony and John’s kitchen. Oc­ca­sion­ally the set’s ro­ta­tion is stopped half­way at 90 de­grees, and the di­vider be­tween the two main sets be­comes a su­per­mar­ket aisle or a back al­ley.

The cast man­age the in­ten­tion­ally clunky di­a­logue well, draw­ing laughs but also ham­mer­ing home the sober­ing poignancy – and glim­mers of hope – that this bleak view of the Amer­i­can Dream of­fers.

Pa­trick McManus and Jenny Young more than keep up with The Re­al­is­tic Joneses.

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