Unwrapping ‘The Realistic Joneses’

The underlying tension plays against the duration of the play even more than it plays between characters. We wait for coherency like we wait for Godot.

The Realistic Joneses - Theater Review
Jennifer Jones (Rebecca Watson), enjoying a clear night in her backyard, is joined by her husband Bob Jones (Rod Gnapp) in Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses.
In Review

The Realistic Joneses

3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars - 'Worth a Look'
American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)
By Will Eno
Directed by Loretta Greco
Starring Rod Gnapp, James Wagner, Rebecca Watson, Allison Jean White
Review by

Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, where much of the blogging class reside, said it succinctly: “clear writing represents clear thinking, regardless of someone’s background, or whether they’re a designer or coder or whatever.”

Will Eno’s play “The Realistic Joneses,” which just opened at ACT’s Geary Theatre, is about what happens when, despite all efforts to the contrary, communication is disjoint from thought – the opposite of communication envisioned by Mullenweg.

Even before houselights dimmed, Andrew Boyce’s scenic designs created a disquieting sense of foreboding, a sense later deepened by the artificiality of the stars hanging over the backyards shared by the two Jones’ families. The creep factor isn’t always obvious, but is invariably present in this 140 minute play (no intermission).

Charles Isherwood called playwright Will Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” Indeed, what could possible be more Becket than an imaginary disease that disconnects meaning from language, wresting from it all emotional context?

Eno is essence of Beckett in so many ways, and not all of them good. Like Becket, his work lives on the edge between anything and nothing, obsessed with death, and open to redemption. Like Beckett, he focuses on the rhythmic structure of the language, here, every line awkwardly suspended, each a brave attempt.  Finally, like Becket, the underlying tension plays against the duration of the play even more than it plays between characters. We wait for coherency like we wait for Godot. And as even the most devoted Beckett fans admit, that wait can get quite tedious.

The Realistic Joneses - A.C.T. San Francisco
(L to R) John Jones (James Wagner) and his wife Pony (Allison Jean White) meet their new neighbors Jennifer Jones (Rebecca Watson) and her husband Bob Jones (Rod Gnapp).

How tedious that gets depends on your personal Beckett-o-meter. This production is spot on if you need a Beckett fix done by some of the best. Rod Gnapp, whose brilliant performance we caught earlier in the seldom-performed Orson Welles play, Moby Dick – Rehearsed, and in the killer production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, appears as Bob Jones, husband of Jennifer Jones (Rebecca White). Opposite are John Jones (James Wagner) and his child-wife Pony (Allison Jean White). Together, they create a genuinely funny production. However, it your Beckett jones has been recently sated, or you’re disinclined to navigate the distance between language and the clarity, perhaps because we all wallow there too much,  you may want to take a pass.

 The Realistic Joneses runs through April 3rd.

Photo credit: Kevin Berne.

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Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.