Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's recent reviews of Swimmers, Mothers and Sons and Patrick's reviews of Tom Reardon's Both Sides Now: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, Wait Until Dark and Anna in the Tropics
The Realistic Joneses is a series of routine encounters between American neighbors. It's set in a luckless suburb of a large city. Both couples are childless and have the same last name of Jones. At first the emblematic Bob (Rod Gnapp) and Jennifer (Rebecca Watson) Jones have little in common with the effervescent John (James Wagner) and Pony (Allison Jean White) Jones. The two male characters are suffering from the same rare, degenerative disease. Bob's wife knows all about her husband's illness but Pony has been purposely left in the dark about her husband's affliction. Don't be misled that this is tragedy; it's strictly comic in the way Will Eno cleverly presents it.
The existential comedy is presented in short scenes using belligerent give-and-takes, irrational patter, and untimely outbursts. You really have to look at it as theater of the absurd and embrace the crazy idiosyncrasy of the play. I really felt the characters' deep emotional truths in their everyday lives. They manhandle words and when Jennifer complains about Bob not really talking to her, he replies "What are doing right now, Math?" It's all achingly true but as delivered as such the audience laughs.
Rod Gnapp gives a brilliant performance as Bob Jones. He skillfully plays the confused character with sharp wit and expert delivery. Rebecca Watson is terrific as the agonizingly optimistic Jennifer, the wife of Bob. James Wagner is charismatic as the appealingly irrational John Jones while Allison Jean White gives a superb performance as Pony, who comes up with such clever lines as "To think that you and me aren't the greatest love story in the world. To think that we're just kind of a mess, and we're nice to each other, and we have fun sometimes."
The stage design by Andrew Boyce is fantastic. He has created what looks like a wooden area with trees in the background flanked by two houses on each end of the stage. Loretta Greco's direction is sharp and incisive and she brings out the best in the four actors.
The Realistic Joneses runs through April 3rd, 2016, at A.C.T. Geary Theater, 415 Geary St, San Francisco. Tickets and information at 415-749-2228 or www.act-sf.org. Coming up next at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater is Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years opening on May 11 and running through June 5th, and at A.C.T.s Strand Theater The Lion written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer opening on April 19 and running through May 1. Also coming up at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater is the world premiere staging of Joseph Dougherty's Chester Bailey starring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn and lauded Bay Area actor Dan Clegg.