The older couple is coping with illness; you sense something is amiss with the younger pair as well.
“The Realistic Joneses,” New York playwright Will Eno’s meditation on the bewildering business of being alive, opens at the Vortex Theatre on Friday, Sept. 22. The play runs on weekends through Oct. 15.
The 90-minute one-act show ponders aging and death, marriage and loneliness.
We meet Bob and Jennifer and their new neighbors, John and Pony, two suburban couples who have even more in common than their shared last names. As their relationships begin to irrevocably intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their fracturing marriages.
â€‹”They begin to find things in the counterpart of the opposite couple that they’re not finding in their spouse,” director Micah Linford said.
Their halting introductory conversation is polite but strained, goofy yet somber. We learn Bob is suffering from a rare progressive ailment that has made his brain fuzzy and his mood distracted. He’s so distant and irritable that Jennifer, clearly the long-serving caretaker, is getting quietly fed up with him.
But their younger neighbors are in the grip of something mysterious, too. The gregarious John blurts out enigmatic responses to simple questions, often contradicting himself seconds later. Pony is girlish, anxious and itchy.
‘There’s obvious trouble going on in that marriage,” Linford said. “They’re not exactly relating to each other the way they should. Their exterior is kind of forced.”
The play weaves comedy within the drama.
“The Realistic Joneses” opened on Broadway in 2014, starring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts.
The production received a Drama Desk Special Award and was named Best Play on Broadway by USA Today and best American play of 2014 by The Guardian.