The Realistic Joneses – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
GARE ST LAZARE IRELAND IN A CO-PRODUCTION WITH RUBICON THEATRE COMPANY AND LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE. IRELAND/USA
The Realistic Joneses By Will Eno
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre, Main Space
Preview(s): 7 – 8 Oct.
Date(s): 7-8 Oct 7.30pm, 9 Oct 6.30pm, 11-14 Oct 7.30pm, 15 Oct 2.30pm & 7.30pm, 16 Oct 2.30pm
Bob (Joe Spano) and Jennifer (Sorcha Fox) are sitting on chairs in their garden when they hear a noise from beside the bins. That is when John (Conor Lovett) and Pony (Faline England) come out into the open. They are newcomers to the small mountain town and have come to introduce themselves to their new neighbours. And so begins this unlikely friendship between the two couples, who on the face of it have little in common other than their proximity.
The play is a co-production between Gare St Lazare, along with Rubicon Theatre Company and Laguna Playhouse. Gare St Lazare are mainly known for their productions of Beckett’s work, such as Waiting for Godot along with The End, First Love and How It Is. This play is by Will Eno and it was first performed in 2012 at the Yale Repertory Theater. A later production on Broadway (Lyceum Theatre) starred Toni Colette and Michael C Hall. Gare St Lazare first started to explore the work of Will Eno back in 2011, with a production of Title and Deed as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival.
There is a minimal set, with two overlapping circles of decking. The cast move small tables and chairs around as necessary, but it is mainly left to the imagination of the audience to fill in the gaps.
The play takes the form of a series of conversations between the different members of the two couples. On one hand, the things they discuss could be taken as trivial or of no great importance, but there is a subtext to each of the discussions. The play has been described as a “sitcom broadcast from a weirder, more melancholy world” and it is an unusual combination of bitter-sweet comedy along with an underlying tragedy. The characters come at major issues from oblique angles and hint at things of importance in their lives, while never outright telling the audience what they’re thinking. The subject matter of mortality is the most obvious one, but themes of sex and love are not far behind.
The most impressive thing about the production is the performances of the four cast members who create a well-rounded set of characters. Sorcha Fox plays the warm and caring Jennifer, who is the most honest and forthright of the group. Joe Spano is a well-known TV actor, having played Lt. Henry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues. His character Bob is looking for meaning while he continues to ignore his illness. There are hints of his failing faculties in his actions, along with his inner angst. Conor Lovett creates the complex character of John. You’re never quite sure what he is after or whether he means what he says. His relationship with Pony, played by Faline England, is complicated and loving in quite an unusual manner. Pony is quite a ditsy and scatterbrained character and a source of much of the humour in the work. Don’t expect belly laughs or dramatic twists in this play. It is a subtle work that bubbles under the surface, allowing the viewer to read into the relationships of the various characters.
Cast and Creative Team
Directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett
Cast: Conor Lovett, Faline England, Joe Spano and Sorcha Fox.
Set and Costume Design: Molly O’Cathain
Lighting Design: Simon Bennison
Composer and Sound Design: Mel Mercier
Produced by Gare St Lazare Ireland and Maura O’Keeffe