Image by Clare Hawley
Bob and Jennifer Jones are a typical American couple living out their lives in a quiet, woodsy neighbourhood. Bob was recently diagnosed with a rare neurological disease but they’re coping as best as they can. When the other Joneses, Pony and John, move in, their world is unsettled enough for them to question what’s left unsaid.
Will Eno’s absurd and irregular script points to the overlooked familiarities of mundane suburban life and throws them into effect against illogical and humorous conversations. Bob’s (Jeff Houston) neurological condition makes communicating with his wife Jennifer (Suzann James) difficult and he often comes across as blunt and dismissive. But then they meet their new neighbours, John (David Jeffrey) and Pony (Jodine Muir) seem to speak in constant non-sequiturs and unsolvable riddles and yet they’re as close as can be, seemingly. As the couples are drawn deeper into each others’ intimacies, the secrets behind all the chatter or lack there of are revealed.
Julie Baz’s direction finds all of the silly moments in this script as well as the jarringly familiar misunderstandings and assumptions in long-term relationships. Sometimes it just takes someone new to crystallise your perspective. James’s Jennifer is the straightest character of the lot and she allows for the moments of incongruency to flourish. Her continued need to find logic and sympathy in her conversations with John illuminate her desperation and loneliness subtly and with great humanity. At the same time, her sparring partner in Jeffrey seems to seek out the holes in conversation like nothing else. He possesses a childish irreverence that perhaps recognises what politeness and propriety prevent the majority of people from voicing. As a group, the actors bounce off of each other in their misfirings and missteps like atoms moving past each other and never touching, which make the cavernous set, designed by David Jeffrey, feel even larger.
There’s little to no plot to this production, instead the focus sits on the characters and their reactions to each other. Sitting in the Joneses’ backyard, listening to owls and the occasional firework display, Eno’s characters are nearly forced to reflect on themselves and their relationships including that have gone unspoken either for a long time or forever. Their musings and miscommunications question what it means to understand each other and be intimately entwined with another person’s life.
The Realistic Joneses is running at Limelight on Oxford from March 13th – 30th