Review Roundup: THE REALISTIC JONESES Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The Realistic Joneses opens tonight, April 6, on Broadway at the Lycuem Theatre (149 W 45th Street). This new American play by Will Eno comes to Broadway after a critically-acclaimed run at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2012.
The Realistic Joneses stars Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner, Academy Award and Tony Award-nominee Toni Collette ("Hostages," "United States of Tara," The Sixth Sense, The Wild Party), Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award-winner Michael C. Hall ("Dexter," Chicago, "Six Feet Under"), Tony Award-winner Tracy Letts (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; August: Osage County; "Homeland"), and Academy Award-winner and Golden Globe-nominee Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny; The Wrestler; Salomé).
The production is directed by Obie Award-winner Sam Gold, who recently received critical acclaim for his production of Fun Home at the Public Theater. It has scenic design by David Zinn, costumes by Kaye Voyce, lighting by Mark Barton, and sound by Leon Rothenberg.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: "But there is more to the goofy John, played with robust wryness by Hall, and Tomei's sweetly dizzy Pony than meets the eye. Using the intriguingly offbeat dialogue that is his hallmark - full of non sequiturs and blunt but often contradictory remarks that both evoke natural speech and lend a slightly surreal quality - Eno draws his four characters to each other in ways that, however predictable, movingly emphasize the ultimate commonality of the human condition...Joneses isn't a downer, though, and director Sam Gold and his excellent cast ensure that its humor and poignance are equally served. Predictably, there's no neat resolution; the play ends with all four of its characters in a relatively upbeat mood, yet not any surer how things will turn out. But that's life for you, isn't it?"
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: "It's funny how trying to connect with neighbors, spouses, God, whomever, can lead you nowhere. Will Eno takes that idea and runs with it in "The Realistic Joneses," an anxious comedy that packs rueful zingers, four first-rate starry performances and - buzzkill time, kids - diminishing returns for the entire second half...Under Sam Gold's tight direction, the cast is natural and convincing. But three-quarters of an hour into the 95-minute show, the script simply circles without deepening, darkening or clarifying...But in "Realistic Joneses," his Broadway debut, the engine remains stuck in second. Keeping up with these Joneses quickly loses its appeal."
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: "To some extent, Eno seems to be asking which of the Joneses is, in fact, realistic? Any of 'em? This is a play about confronting mortality for sure, which is what underscores the gobs of intellectual and linguistic stimulation that flows from the stage: Letts' Bob, for example, no longer sees the point of painting the house, given that it only has to be redone. That being what you do is no longer sufficient for him. Bob, for the record, has many more caustic zingers, even though the character barely has the energy to spit them out. Hall's John, meanwhile, keeps trying to talk risks of new enterprises and new ways to communicate (why not?), but he mostly flails. Of course. Death is a brick wall. But the play's emotional appeal - and this one, weird as it most surely is, has more of that than any Eno work to date - comes from its equal recognition of the stress of taking care of the ill, the dying, the declining, the angst-ridden...Gold clearly understands that Eno is a writer with heart and compassion (and a useful touch of insecurity)."
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: "Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as "The Realistic Joneses," by Will Eno, do not appear often on Broadway. Or ever, really. You're as likely to see a tumbleweed lolloping across 42nd Street as you are to see something as daring as Mr. Eno's meditation on the confounding business of being alive (or not) sprouting where only repurposed movies, plays by dead people and blaring musicals tend to thrive...The disjointed push and pull of Mr. Eno's dialogue is not easy to master: He emphasizes the way in which we so often do throw words at one another, although most of us don't have the arsenal of curveballs that, say, John does. You may come out of this play hearing a new strangeness - and perhaps a lunatic beauty - in the way a casual conversation can unfold, or at least wishing that your interactions held the entrancing oddity of Mr. Eno's characters'...For all the sadness woven into its fabric, "The Realistic Joneses" brought me a pleasurable rush virtually unmatched by anything I've seen this season."
Jessie Green, Vulture: "Which pair of Joneses, if either, is the "realistic" one is not made clear, or even addressed, though a certain merging of identities in the Albee manner makes the question moot. This is not altogether unappealing. The jokes are funny, and when their content supports character development, as sometimes randomly happens, they even land quite nicely. The growing tension between Bob and John - a matter of peacock territoriality and something darker, it would seem - naturally finds expression in such conversational gambits...Eno brings a decided intellectual panache to the genre (as opposed to, say, Lisa D'Amour's more emotional Detroit) but I'm not sure that's an improvement if the aim is to produce meaning; it's like producing water by squeezing a hamperful of damp clothes. You might be able to do it, but is it worth the effort? So even though The Realistic Joneses is smart and witty and beautifully produced, it's not exactly enjoyable. As Groucho Marx, who knew from paraprosdokians, once said, 'I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.'"
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "You know when people first meet and it can be instantly awkward? They talk over each other, make inane comments and sometime completely miss the point? Well, that pretty much never ends in Will Eno's quirky, existential Broadway debut...That exchange pretty much sums up this play - funny, but more than a little maddening. Or it's just over our heads. Or maybe under it. Whatever. It's fun. Or maybe not fun, but definitely some other word."
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: "Alas, nothing ensues or unfolds, which makes for an excruciatingly long 90 minutes (despite director Sam Gold's snappy pacing). As Jennifer says dejectedly to her husband, ''We're - I don't know - throwing words at each other.'' Like the dead squirrel, that line comes in the first few minutes. Who could guess it would be a harbinger of things to come?"
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: "I recently wrote that 90 minutes in the theater is the new three-act play. And there have been some good short plays that constitute a full, satisfying evening in the theater. Will Eno's "The Realistic Joneses," which opened Sunday at the Lyceum Theatre and marks his overdue Broadway debut, isn't one of them, despite all the fine acting and writing talent on display. The drama feels overextended even before its four characters settle into a final, whimpering contemplation of life, mortality, the cosmos, eternity and that owl hooting in the woods nearby...It's quirky, but nothing ages faster than quirky when the playwright doesn't have a second act for his short one-act play."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "In The Realistic Joneses, the world is familiar and, then again, very scary. It's also weird and cruel and profound in all sorts of unexpected places -- as sad as life but a whole lot funnier. Provocative playwright Will Eno, whose dry and odd work has tended to cause the theatrical equivalent of fistfights Off-Broadway, has come to Broadway with a macabre and melancholy yet strangely delightful comedy...At its most basic, the play can be reduced to a drama about caregivers and the different ways people deal with illness and mortality. But much like work by Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett, Eno's closest forbearers in existential absurdity, there's a challenge in keeping up with these Joneses. As John says, 'This was fun -- I mean, not fun, but some other word.' Indeed."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "The absurdist intellectual humor of playwright Will Eno is very much an acquired taste, provoking as much discomfort as laughs, and placing him somewhere between Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee. But theatergoers willing to dive into the sea of ellipses in this mordant, melancholy existential sitcom will find the waters bracing...Is The Realistic Joneses an ideal fit for Broadway? Not if the uncomfortable audience behavior at a press performance a few nights prior to opening was any indication. The anxious smattering of applause during scene changes seems a symptom of a crowd unsure how to react but conditioned to believe that star talent demands some noise. While the play is stuffed with droll wordplay and wry comic observations that hit the mark, you can also feel much of its humor and poetry not quite landing - getting lost in the airy space of a large auditorium. A work in which the awkwardness of intimacy is a key theme might seem more at home someplace cozier."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Unfortunately, this kind of cutting wit, snappily delivered by a couple of certifiable stars like Collette and Letts, lulls the aud into thinking they have walked into a brittle comedy of manners. (Cue the patters of applause for every damned laugh line and, less plausibly, the knee-jerk impulse to clap after every scene, however brief.) Eno does write comical lines and witty exchanges, but his humor is not the reassuring stuff of sitcoms. It's the desperately funny chitchat of political prisoners awaiting the hangman...The all-star cast not only brings out character nuances that would be lost in a less savvy production, they might even manage to keep the house open for much if not most of the show's limited run. But word is bound to get out that Eno's tragi-comic sensibility is hard to digest for anyone who hasn't already acquired a taste for it. So, while there's an air of mystery about this piece, the biggest mystery is what this downtown show is doing on Broadway in the first place."
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "All members of the foursome give performances much in keeping with how we've experienced them before: Tomei is spacey, Letts wields defense mechanisms powerful enough to fend off an alien attack, and so on...Eno's ultimately too-indulgent comedy is a gentle reminder that none of us know what we are really facing, and some of us are more acutely aware of that "unknown" than others. The trouble with "The Realistic Joneses" is that it's more concerned with making the point over and over, rather than exploring anything new."
David Cote, TimeOut New York: "The actors are excellent, playing the minimalist music of the lines without losing warmth or individuality; if it's possible to make us care deeply about characters intentionally fashioned as gnomic ciphers, these fine performers come closest. Whether or not you share Eno's severe, brittle and frankly despairing view of existence, there's much to savor: the dry but meaningful banter, the joy of humans sharing time and space, battling the darkness with a joke or silence. Life in Enoland isn't what you'd call realistic-it's more real than that."
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: "Until now, his off-Broadway "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" and "The Open House," among others, have shown him to be a wildly divisive writer: Some love his deadpan riffs on language; just as many find him glib and empty. Yet Sunday night, the Massachusetts native made his Broadway debut with "The Realistic Joneses," a dark comedy that's fairly accessible - for Eno (we're not talking Neil Simon here) - but won't settle the debate. The show starts off strong before running in circles, leaving you wondering what the point was, exactly."
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: "There are the times when Eno's wordplay in his 95-minute work becomes excessive - a writer's weakness for rambling through the potentials of language - but the production succeeds in creating its own distinctive atmosphere, of laughter amid great sadness."
Toby Zinman, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Will Eno, theater's reigning prince of snarky anomie, has two new plays on in New York, one his Broadway debut, The Realistic Joneses, and one off, The Open House. His signature style--established with Thom Pain (based on nothing)--is deadpan wordplay. This off-kilter dialogue is even stranger when it's in the mouths of the starry cast: Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts and Michael C. Hall, who all turn in remarkable performances, given that they have to deliver lines that seem to defy all the expectations of coherent stage speech. Sam Gold directs the proceedings with an admirably straight face, although the audience found the play hilarious."
Matt Wolf, Telegraph: "As one might deduce from an ironically titled play whose "realism" is open to debate, Eno is interested more in the byways of speech and silence than in actual plot. Not a lot happens during The Realistic Joneses beyond the coming together of two couples, both called Jones, who inhabit a small town where such activity as there is involves a balloon festival and local fair that pointedly don't involve them. Any friends or relations? Forget it: these four are one another's world - perhaps even the world - and that's that."
David Finkle, Huffington Post: "Under Sam Gold's direction, the alphabetically billed Collette, Hall, Letts and Tomei are collectively giving it their best shot. Unfortunately their best is not good enough.The Realistic Joneses from the highly regarded (though not necessarily by me) Will Eno is an example of that wise old saying, "There's less here than meets the eye.""