At College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne Campus’ Backstage Theatre, through May 7, Will Eno’s, “The Realistic Joneses,” produced by A Public Fit Theatre Company, (APublicFit.org) will remind you of many disconnected experiences we humans endure while trying to make sense of life.
Playwright Will Eno says, “I always liked Thornton Wilder’s saying, ‘the duty of the playwright was just to pose the question correctly…’
“If I had to describe my little life-project in one sentence, I would say it was, in writing a play, trying to see life more clearly for myself… and having others value life more.”
Toward that goal, he offers four very different characters trying to connect with each other amidst medical and emotional challenges.
Couple one, Bob and Jennifer Jones, live in a “small town somewhere near the mountains” (read isolation) and make smalltalk in their equally small backyard revealing a simmering staleness of their marriage.
Couple two, John and Pony Jones, move to the same block and literally skip into couple one’s lives.
Public Fit’s adroit treatment of a deceptively tough script (that has gotten a few lukewarm reviews as it nevertheless garnished accolades for the Samuel Beckett-inspired playwright Eno) uses every ounce of theatrical effort to bring the Joneses into our psychological lap through the tight, effective Direction of Daniel Kucan.
We can see other audience members in the background of its intimate black-box, three-quarter-round staging, which always adds a deepening element to audience experience.
Everything is superb, starting with the clever reel-projection, designed by Chloe Joy, of an ever growing, eating, scratching squirrel (who hilariously winds up dead in the play). “Squirrel” could be a metaphor for our lives: scratching out a living till we die — a perfunctory ending.
The effective minimalist all-white Set (Eric Koger) is moved smoothly by all white-clad stagehands, through the disjointed scenes.
Lighting (Elizabeth Kline) Technical (Shannon Bradley) and Sound (John McClain) polish it all seamlessly.
Costumes by one of my favorite pros in town, Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova, are carefully chosen for each character and looked, to me, far better suited than those I saw in video-clips from other professional productions.
And the acting! Timothy Cummings’ “Bob Jones” uses muscle-memory to perfection to convey his pent-up resignation tinged with resolve.
Tina Rice as Jennifer Jones is perfectly sorority-coiffed and proper. She has as many answers as questions. She aches for connection as she cares for others.
Mike Rasmussen as John Jones has the most robust character — bursting out of himself in all directions — vacillating between rage and hilarity.
Prancing Pony Jones is played with much coy-perkiness that matures toward the end by Rebecca Reyes.
There are betrayals and surrenderings in this work which are perfectly familiar to us all. The final scene, with its glimmer of connection among all four, suggests that although we live in a cannonade of words hurled disjointedly at us, daily, we can say the most with just a touch. A hug. A sigh.
A Public Fit Theatre Company goes the extra mile to do an after-show “Buzzz” Q&A. For me, this is a most enjoyable moment for the audience to check realities and appreciate deep processes behind the production. It really adds immensely to the experience.
APF is deeply committed to bringing shows and collaborations to many schools in Vegas Valley that emphasize the arts. Certainly, they are part of the healing from the Great Cosmic Disconnect we ride in.
Last note, I don’t see Will Eno as the next Pinter, Beckett or Wilder. Yet. But, I haven’t seen his other works which also have earned awards and premiere support.
Reviewer Marianne Donnelly welcomes your feedback: email firstname.lastname@example.org.