BWW Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES at The Acting Ensemble

BWW Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES at The Acting Ensemble

"The Realistic Joneses" is one of New York Times' top 25 plays since 1993 and when you see it at "The Acting Ensemble" you will be able to see why. Seyhan Killic has gathered a group of actors together that seem to effortless fill their roles.

"The Realistic Joneses" by Will Eno, is about a couple, Bob (Russell Pluta) and Jennifer (Grace Lazarz) and their new neighbors, Pony (Colleen Dabler) and John (Bill Svelmoe), all of which share the last name Jones. They soon find out they share more than just their last names and identical houses, the men also share a degenerative brain disorder.

There are a few stories going on throughout the play and it is a show that would benefit from multiple viewings, so the likelihood of not quite getting every nuance the first time you see it may get to you, but you will not be disappointed in the show.

The first story we have is the couples themselves. Bob and Jennifer, played with a delightful blandness by Russell and Grace that tells us something is more than likely wrong with Bob and Jennifer has been dealing with it for some time. Enter John and Pony, a couple that is so free spirited and energetic, you get exhausted just watching

BWW Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES at The Acting Ensemble

them. Both members of this couple seem to exist entirely in their own universe much of the time. John comments on everything he sees, without fear of reaction to his words, and Pony is played with such a teeny bopper personality that one wonders if Pony ever knows where she is and what she is doing at any given time.

Another story we see is the stark difference between the women of this play. Grace plays Jennifer with such a careful measure that, everytime she speaks, you can tell that this is either a conversation she has tried and failed at before, or that she has learned exactly what to say to Bob in that moment. She isn't at her wits end with the disease that frustrates her husband, but you can tell there is going to be that moment where she snaps. On the other hand we have Colleen playing Pony with such glee and abandon that you get the idea that John is robbing the cradle. When I asked her about her character choice for Pony, Colleen told me she feels like "Pony is a woman who hasn't learned coping skills" and this is made even more evident by her interactions with Jennifer, who clearly has learned how to cope with much of the things going on around her.

The gentlemen of this show also do a fine job of playing illness without it seeming like a "put-on". Eno has clearly put Bob and John in different stages of the illness, with Bob having lost a good deal of his personality and John starting to lose some of his BWW Review: THE REALISTIC JONESES at The Acting Ensemblefaculties. Russell Pluta does a good job of playing the straight man to much of the things going on around him. Whether he is a few seconds late with a response to a question on a topic that's passed or just in the way he responds to kindness from another person as if he was a child, Pluta does a good job of making it real and not playing his part for laughs. Then there is John. Boisterous, energetic, always with at least one foot in his mouth, John can come off as trying too hard to be the life of the party, and is often pushed by Pony to liven things up with their fellow Joneses. Bill Svelmoe teeters between quick wit and utterly struggling to voice his mind with the grace and balance of a high wire act.

"The Realistic Joneses" is certainly a show that depends on a strong ensemble. No one person gets to hide behind a set piece or another person. This cast melds together and actually makes emotional connections, no matter who they are between, seem natural and almost forgivable. What's a little emotional cheating between friends, right? Will Eno has written some amazing sort of realistic characters and this ensemble brings them to life in a delightful way.


"The Realistic Joneses" continues its run at "The Acting Ensemble" through July 1. Tickets are available on the web at actingensemble.com or for information by telephone at (574) 807-0108.

photo credit: The Acting Ensemble

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