Ice cream is a dessert best served cold—THE REALISTIC JONESES AT 35 BELOW

Ice cream is a dessert best served cold—THE REALISTIC JONESES AT 35 BELOW

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The Realistic Joneses

Jennifer: It just seems like we don’t talk

Bob: What are we doing right now?  Math?

Jennifer: No, we’re — I don’t know — sort of throwing words at each other

What happens when you can no longer use your words to connect with your loved ones? This enigmatic contemporary comedy explores the question without a clear answer. The production is a minimalistic affair by design, focusing on the writing as the real central character. Two married couples are more or less dropped into a black box void with only a few props and furniture or seated directly on the floor.

The actors' appearances and mixed chemistry seem to add to the overall sense of ordinary people faced with a gradual communication breakdown, like a balloon with a slow leak. The play skips any clunky exposition and background information about these characters and avoids a traditional plot development. The timeline is unclear and ambiguity lingers like a nebulous cloud.

One very key use of symbolism in the play is a dysfunctional lamp that is one couple's trash and becomes a project for the other husband to fix. The wives play roles as melancholy caregivers to husbands that are either suffering from a degenerative disease or from other secrets (to be revealed). The four cast members have scenes together as well as scenes where separate spouses can confide in one another awkwardly at best, featuring sometimes vague, often confusing dialogue without literal interpretation as an anchor. 

Jennifer: I’m sorry, I just kind of blurted that all out.

John: That’s all right. That’s what separates us from the animal. You never hear animals blurting things out. Unless they’re being run over by a car or something.

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Will Eno's script is perplexing, but rightfully so, and if it were a meal it might feature unsharpened pencils for utensils, an entree of boiled stuffed owl with the recipe improvised, lacking key ingredients and with myriad spices added later to fix any flavor malfunctions, with wine served in broken light bulbs. We as the audience have to piece together meaning at times from non-sequiturs, blunt rejoinders, free association, questions that are ignored, and casual throwaway lines or absurd nonsense occasionally uttered bluntly from a speaker misunderstanding common context clues. 

The play went down slow but the aftertaste lingered. I must say that I saw the play on Mother's Day in the afternoon and our audience seemed to be thin due to the occasion. For those like myself with only a short list of iconic playwrights to draw a comparison to, think of this as a Samuel Beckett play in the spirit of Waiting For Godot with lost married couples "Searching For Godot." For me the experience was like following a trail of breadcrumbs to pathos.

The Realistic Joneses will be at Asheville’s 35below until May 21, 2017. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $18.00 and are available online at www.ashevilletheatre.org, over the phone at 828-254-1320, or in person at the Asheville Community Theatre Box Office.

From the press release:

Ellipsis Theater Company, in association with Asheville Community Theatre, is thrilled to bring The Realistic Joneses to Asheville’s 35below for nine performances May 5-21, 2017

This is the latest production from Ellipsis Theater Company producers of last year’s extended sold out run of David Mamet’s Oleanna. This modern dramedy by Will Eno will make you laugh, tear up, think … and talk. The Realistic Joneses is directed by Elissa Peregine and stars Chloe Zeitounian, Badi Mirheli, Kier Klepzig and Christine Eide.

For more information about The Realistic Joneses or about Asheville Community Theatre, please visit www.ashevilletheatre.org