The Realistic Joneses

18 March 2019 | 2:06 pm | Sean Maroney

"'The Realistic Joneses' is a good time but needs major work." Pic by Clare Hawley.

In The Realistic Joneses, set in a quiet, unnamed town, John Jones (David Jeffrey) and his wife, Pony (Jodine Muir) wander into the backyard of Jennifer Jones (Suzann James) and Bob Jones (Jeff Houston). They are two couples; American, dysfunctional, tense, and tired. They are tired of trouble, life and the living of it.

Playwright Will Eno is a master at saying everything while seemingly saying so little. For anyone unfamiliar with this play, come to Limelight to see Patina Productions’ take on it. Will Eno’s words ring out in the space, and it’s a pleasure to be acquainted or re-acquainted with them. The theatrical elements, though, leave much to be desired.

Strange directorial and/or acting choices distract majorly. John, when talking to Jennifer in the supermarket, lifts a sealed jar of pesto to his nose and smells it. There’s no scent to a jar of sealed pesto; it’s sealed. Sure, a conversation in the supermarket might require two people to busy themselves with reading product labels, but there is only so much label-reading an audience can stand. Bob stands with his hands on his hips in a neat diamond shape so much that we begin to forget he is a dying man with clear sexual interest in his neighbour’s wife, and think that he may well be a diamond with perfectly identical intonation, no matter the situation. Both Jeff Houston and David Jeffrey’s acting, while at times managing variety, is punctuated by too many arm movements and no listening.

It’s ironic that the men’s unlistening acting mirrors their characters’ ignorance of the women in their lives. James and Muir give comparatively magnificent performances. James especially plays with a pathos that redeems the production’s shortcomings. There is liveliness in their performances, as their counterparts lose their minds and their way. As Jennifer, James reprimands Bob: “Be a man. Be a woman, even better.” The audience can’t help but mirror her thoughts.

Limelight On Oxford is a fantastically placed spot. The Realistic Joneses is a good time but needs major work. Eno’s issues are crucial but this production is incidental.