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BWW Reviews: Will Eno Hits Broadway with THE REALISTIC JONESES

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Given its quartet of name stars and, quite frankly, the fact that it's on Broadway, playwright Will Eno's Main Stem debut, The Realistic Joneses, will most likely be a lot of playgoers' first experience with the scribe best known for oblique downtown fare such as Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Middletown; plays that seem satisfied to bask in their own quirkiness.

BWW Reviews:  Will Eno Hits Broadway with THE REALISTIC JONESES
Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei (Photo: Joan Marcus)

If consistency counts for anything, those who wish to peruse the critical consensus in an attempt to figure out what the hell it is they just saw will most likely find a reviewing press divided between enthusiastic admiration and annoyed distain.

Still, The Realistic Joneses is clearly Eno's most accessible play. It's funny, though more of the peculiar type of funny than the genuinely humorous kind. If Middletown was a kind of "Thornton Wilder goes Beckett," The Realistic Joneses comes off as a Neil Simon attempt at absurdism.

Director Sam Gold's steady production achieves a deceptive tone of normalcy. Set in "a smallish town not far from some mountains," the play opens with a frustrated Jennifer (Toni Collette) trying to get some conversation out of her sullen husband, Bob (Tracy Letts).

"It just seems like we don't talk."

"What are we doing right now, math?

BWW Reviews:  Will Eno Hits Broadway with THE REALISTIC JONESES
Toni Collette and Michael C. Hall
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Shortly after their relationship is clearly defined as strained, they're visited by chipper new neighbors from down the block; John (Michael C. Hall) and Pony (Marisa Tomei). Both couples not only share the surname of Jones, but both husbands are suffering from the same neurological disorder, which might at least explain John's excitement in having discovered a company that publishes transcripts of audio books.

For 90 minutes the quartet divides themselves into scenes that hint at plot points, but the evening appears to be mostly about communication, as expressed through numerous non-sequiturs, nonsensical observations and the habitual literal interpretation of common expressions.

"You know what they say about still waters..."

"Mosquitoes? Malaria?"

Count this critic as among those that appreciate producers bringing unconventional new plays to Broadway but who nevertheless has little motivation to try and fathom Mr. Eno's dramatic intention.

Perhaps it's time to peruse the critical consensus in an attempt to figure out what the hell it is I just saw.

Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.

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Michael Dale After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.