These Joneses aren’t the ones you’re trying to keep up with. They’re the ones that you don’t know about or don’t even notice, because their lives are just like yours: full of micro-moments of misconnections, misunderstandings, laughter, comfort, discomfort, and reminders of mortality. These are The Realistic Joneses (as created by playwright Will Eno) who you can meet them in person at The Roxy on Gateway March 24 – April 3 as part of The Roxy Performance Series.
For this instalment in The Roxy Performance Series, Theatre Network is teaming up with Wild Side Productions,the company that brought us Sarah Ruhl’s epic Passion Play in 2014. To bring this play to life, director Jim Guedo has put together a crack team of Robert Benz, Amber Borotsik, Belinda Cornish, and Jesse Gervais.
Jim describes the play as being about what happens when, “two couples meet and you see over the course of twelve short scenes how their lives get sort of linked up and separate and how it changes their lives in small touching, funny ways.” All this happens in Will Eno’s distinctive writing style, which leads to Jim jokingly describing the experience of The Realistic Joneses as, “A Seinfeld episode directed by David Lynch or Anton Chekhov… where nothing happens, but everything happens.”
Jim explains, “Will Eno’s plays are very absurdist and very brittle but full of humanity. He set out to write a realistic play because stylistically his plays are very unique, so it was a conscious attempt on his part. [The Realistic Joneses] looks at two couples who share a last name and discover they’re neighbours. Both married couples are dealing with life issues – the ‘undealable’. The playwright was fascinated in looking at people dealing with insurmountable problems that we all face in a humourous way… it’s how these couples that are married, how they connect, how they don’t connect, how they’re a unit, but they’re isolated and alone… You see people dealing with mortality, with getting old, with feeling stale, feeling like they have no purpose in life but it’s got a lot of humour because they feel that they’re always fumbling to try to connect with each other.”
While death hangs over The Realistic Joneses in the form of the way each couple deals with the effects of a degenerative disease, Jim says the play is a dark comedy with the humour arising from the way the characters use language and the missed connections and misunderstandings between the characters. “It’s how people talk, but talk at each other, not to each other. There’s a lot of banter and non sequiturs… Everyone has their own linear thought process that doesn’t line up with anyone else’s. A lot of it is that Will Eno finds the humour in awkward human interaction. It’s all the missed connections, it’s sticking your foot in your mouth… it’s comedy that you go oh god, that’s the most embarrassing conversation, but I just had it last week… What they say invariably doesn’t end up being what they meant. There’s a gap in what words can do – language sometimes doesn’t do justice in trying to capture what a person is thinking or feeling.”
Will Eno’s writing of this dark comedy walks that thin line between something being funny and tragic, and Jim says a lot of the humour depends on the audience member’s frames of mind. “I watch a scene and on certain days it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen or, on other days, it makes you feel like crying. I call it human comedy where the laughter is out of recognition of people’s behaviour, their strategies, their defence mechanisms, the things that we all do to manage our lives and get by. We can all identify with it.”
Jim says The Realistic Joneses is a very relatable play because Will Eno mines everyday interactions and experiences to form the basis for the play. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a life-threatening disease – if you’re late for an appointment and you can’t find your keys we’ve all been there. If it’s trying to connect with a stranger and you’re having the most awkward, embarrassing situation and you feel like you have Tourette’s because things are popping out of your mouth, we’ve all been there. But what they realize, without sounding fatalist, is every day is one day closer to when you’re leaving the earth anyway, so let’s cherish the little moments and look at the sky and be with nature and talk to each other instead of through or at each other.”
The Realistic Joneses plays March 24 – April 3 at The Roxy on Gateway (8529 Gateway Boulevard). Previews are March 22 and 23. Tickets are $14 for the preview and $18 – $21 during the main run through Theatre Network’s box office.