Is too realistic a comedy to be funny
By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Kevin Berne
Jennifer Jones (REBECCA WATSON) enjoying a clear night in her backyard, is Joined by Bob  (ROD GNAPP) her husband in “THE REALISTIC JONESES

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Written by playwright WILL ENO, his new comedy “THE REALISTIC JONESES that is being presented at A.C.T. in the city,  is about two couples, who shared “JONES” as their last names, who become neighbors and more than "neighbors" at the end. Called  “realistic” the play shows the audience realistic situations in realistic settings. however, the four characters lack a third dimension.

The play starts with Jennifer Jones (REBECCA WATSON) sitting alone in the back of their house, admiring the beauty of the  night. Out from the house comes Bob  (ROD GNAPP) her husband, to  join her. As they began talking with each other, we detect that “something” is wrong with Bob. When he tells his wife that they are talking. she corrects him saying: “No, we are not talking, we’re sort of throwing words at each other.”

The “THE REALISTIC JONESES” continues its “realism” visually. This time with its set, designed by Scenic Designer ANDRE BOYCE, that displays both country houses with a forest of trees, standing at their back and a green patch of grass, between them, that look so real that almost  make us smell its wetness. As we look up, there hundredths of stars twinkling on a navy blue sky and to complete the “magic” of the night in the country, we hear the chirping of crickets and hoots of an owls in the background.

Bob's and Jennifer conversation is interrupted when their new neighbors John (JAMES WAGNER) and his ebullient wife Pony (ALLISON JEAN WHITE) who had decided to escape their problems by renting a house in the mountians, appear at their house carrying a bottle of wine. As they talk, we begin to understand what is wrong with Bob (GNAPP) when Jennifer explains to the couple that her husband has a degenerative neurological disease which causes him to suffer spasms, pain, and memory lapses.

realistic_joneses_ Principal.jpg
L-R John Jones (JAMES WAGNER and his wife Pony (ALLISON JEAN WHITE) meet their new neighbors Jennifer Jones (REBECCA WATSON) and her husband Bob (ROD GNAPP in “The Realistic Joneses.

As the couples’ lives intertwine, we discover than John is a drug addict that also suffers from memory lapses and even has seizures. In time, both men, seem to find a bond with each other because they share physical problems. On their part, both wives, try to cope the best way they can with their husband’s problems. Pony, (WHITE) however, does her coping in a way that was not consider acceptable.

Under the direction of LORETTA GRECO, the acting of the four actors is  realistic, but because the “characters” they represent, are not tri-dimensional, and their dialogue reveals little from their past,  the audience knows little about them.  It does not help that because  John (WAGNER) is a drug addict and Bob (GNAPP) is losing his memory, their dialogue is focused on other things and is confusing. Because none of the characters seem to have motivation, the play is filled with dialogues but has no message at the end.

The main flaw in playwright’s  ENO play, however, is that it is being presented to the audience as a “comedy” and his rying to use the mental illness and drug addiction of two of his characters to get laughs did not work. Drug addiction and mind degeneration are not a laughing matter to most people. Prove of it, was that the laughs were scarce on the play's opening night and its reception was not enthusiastic

Jon (WAGNER) reaches out for a connection with his Jennifer (WATSON)

On opening night, it became obvious by looking at the people's faces that the subject of the play made those experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's themselves of who may be struggling with relatives and drugs, uncomfortable. Instead of  applauding,  many remained just staring at the stage.  Perhaps for them, the subjects  in this "comedy" instead of funny, had been hurtful. It was interesting to watch that at the end of the play many people in the audience just turned to each other as if wondering what to do. Those who applauded, applauded at the actors for their  excellent, performances.  

THE REALISTIC JONESES will continue playing at the AMERICAN CONSERVATORY THEATRE  415 Geary Street, 94102 until April 10 for tickets call 1-800-840-9227