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Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES is An Entertaining Night of Theatre

Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES is An Entertaining Night of Theatre

Will Eno's comedy-drama THE REALISTIC JONESES plays Edmonton's Walterdale Theatre until July 16!

At first glance, there appears to be nothing in common between Bob and Jennifer and their eccentric new neighbours. The former prefers quiet evenings in their forest-fringed backyard while newcomers, John and Pony, would rather paint the town red. However, after a whirlwind of coincidental and not-so-coincidental encounters, both couples eventually realize that they share far more than just their last names.

Written by American playwright, Will Eno, The Realistic Joneses premiered in 2012 at Yale Repertory Theatre and opened on Broadway in 2014. Featuring a small star-studded cast consisting of Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Marisa Tomei, and Michael C. Hall, the latter production received critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. Now playing at Edmonton's Walterdale Theatre, The Realistic Joneses features an exceptional local cast and is directed by John Anderson.

The show begins on a serene moonlit patio on which a surly Bob (Zack Siezmagraff) and worried Jennifer (Colleen Allen) are seated. Their fraught circumstances only intensify when their new neighbours, John and Pony (Christoff Lundgren and Brooke Hodgson) literally come crashing into their lives. Despite a less than stellar first meeting, the couples cross paths countless times over the following weeks, their not-so-flattering mutual first impressions of one other evolving into tumultuous not-quite friendships.

From the moment the show begins, it's easy to forget that these characters are fictional. Siezmagraff and Allen paint a tense portrait of a couple grappling with Bob's rare and worsening medical condition. Bob's stony demeanour and reactivity clash with the usually sunny Jennifer's desperation to revive their once happy marriage. Jennifer's efforts to support her husband are often brushed off due to his own deep-seated fears, resulting in scenes that are truly heartbreaking. On the other hand, John and Pony come across as an idealistic, madly in love young couple only for the façade to crumble behind closed doors. Lundgren completely disappears into the tormented John's character, rattling off caustic jokes one moment and tearing at his hair the next. Caught up in the storm of John's mood swings is Pony, whose bubbly disposition conceals her anxiety over the growing rift in their marriage. The scenes featuring both couples shift from awkward blunders to angry outbursts to precarious camaraderie at the drop of a hat, leaving the audience guessing what happens next.

The Joneses' tiny alpine neighbourhood is brought to life by Joan Hawkins' set design and Richard Hatfield's emotive lighting. Bob and Jennifer's idyllic patio occupies the stage's left while John and Pony's claustrophobic rental property sits on the right. The younger couple's cramped living room nestles behind a screen door and is often bathed in the dingy glow emanating from the lamp John gleefully saved from a trash can. Also notable is Hatfield's rendering of a silvery, dreamlike moonlight that creates an illusion of tranquility at odds with the characters' intense emotions. Shawn Pallier's sound design further heightens the pivotal nighttime scenes, ranging from crackling fireworks to the hoots of an elusive owl.

Eno's script brims with hairpin turns, larger-than-life characters, and no shortage of caustic humour. Despite some dangling loose ends and a slightly anticlimactic ending, The Realistic Joneses is both laugh-out-loud funny and deadly serious in its exploration of some of the mind's darkest corners. It is entertaining while posing the age-old question: how well do you truly know your neighbours?

The Realistic Joneses plays Edmonton's Walterdale Theatre until July 16. Masks and social distancing are requested of all audience members.

Photo: Henderson Images

From This Author - Sarah Dussome

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