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Lonely struggles take a toll on Jennifer (Melissa Claire) and John (Chris Ginesi).
Lonely struggles take a toll on Jennifer (Melissa Claire) and John (Chris Ginesi)

Review – ‘The Realistic Joneses’ at Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa

Mar 5, 2018
by Alexa Chipman


Suburbia’s white picket fences and rows of neatly trimmed houses give the illusion of a well-ordered existence in this clever play by Will Eno. Meet the Joneses and Joneses, two neighboring couples who have moved into a small mountain town for similar unspoken reasons. Their blunt quips and friendly exchanges hide layers of denial and anxiety, “throwing words at each other” observes a frustrated character, during an inane conversation about the weather.

Eno’s dialogue is fast-paced and insightful—questions are asked and ignored or sidetracked in a rapid exchange, almost like hearing thoughts out loud along with verbal communications. The talented cast augments his scintillating writing with intense underlying emotion, leaving the audience riveted by otherwise ordinary settings. “No one’s ever just sitting here” Pony contemplates, watching Bob’s body language as he relaxes in the backyard.

Suffering from a rare degenerative nerve disease, Bob is unable to work, pretending that nothing is wrong, and lashing out at his wife for not seeing beyond his illness. “That’s not all that I am” he cries, quivering from the pain, unwilling to accept her help. Witty wordplay and telling pauses cause laughter to flow, despite disturbing themes. Director Argo Thompson worked carefully with the actors to develop the subtext and nuanced comedy of the play.

John (Chris Ginesi) is comforted by Jennifer (Melissa Claire).

Chris Ginesi as John Jones demonstrates his extensive range, munching through free samples at the grocery store while clumsily flirting to a painful recovery in the aftermath of a seizure, clutching at the kitchen table, unable to form words. Paige Picard imbues Pony with jovial energy and a never-ending stream of contented chatter, inserting “literally” and “like” in all the wrong places. Her lack of self-confidence intrudes upon occasion, leading her into poorly considered choices, yet she manages to bounce back.

Melissa Claire (Jennifer Jones) and Chris Schloemp (Bob Jones) create a believable and hilarious couple. Her stormy look at Bob’s offhand comment that Pony should go into modeling sends him into stammered assurances that anyone could be a model, awkwardly inserted long after the original comment, causing her irritation to escalate. Despite constant quarreling, they demonstrate a secure affection for each other, and she is ripped apart by her helplessness in combatting his illness.

Pony (Paige Picard), Bob (Chris Schloemp) and Jennifer (Melissa Claire) observe John (Chris Ginesi) tracking a squirrel through the backyard.

Tip-toeing around the yard at night, Schloemp and Ginesi encounter April George’s lighting design as the porch light flares on with each furtive movement, plunging them into shadow when they freeze. Their shenanigans are especially effective with the combination of lighting and Thompson’s surreal set design.

‘The Realistic Joneses’ is a fantastically funny contemporary play. Do not miss this irresistible performance from Left Edge Theatre, which considers repressed fear, hidden illness, and the power of relationships.

The Realistic Joneses
Presented by Left Edge Theatre through March 25, 2018
Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Left Edge Studio Theatre at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 546-3600

Photos from Argo Thompson

A;exa Chipman Live Theater Reviews

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Twitter / Instagram / Facebook - alexachipman


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