JC Cutler, Angela Timberman, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, and Jane Froiland in Park Square Theatre’s production of The Realistic Joneses. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.
There are sometimes strange synchronies in the world of theatrical programming. The Realistic Joneses has much in common with last season’s Constellations at the Jungle Theater; both deal with difficult and highly personal subject matters. It also spoils much of the experience if you read too much about them beforehand, since following the characters on their own journey of discovery – and trying to assemble the pieces, Sherlock Holmes-style – is an important part of the experience.
The tale that unfolds on Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage features a quartet of characters, all bearing the name Jones: Bob (JC Cutler), Jennifer (Angela Timberman), Pony (Jane Froiland), and John (Eric “Pogi” Sumangul). Each of these is a sort of Everyperson stand-in; there’s much that we don’t know about them and much that we never do learn in Will Eno’s script. The focus is on a pair of life narratives that overrun all four characters’ lives.
If you were to only view the first 15 minutes of the show, you might be forgiven for thinking that the script and characters are entirely banal and uninteresting. This slow beginning is an important foundation upon which many later events and realizations are built, and is very much unlike the experience of the play once the main narratives become clear. Many of these seeds are planted by Sumangul’s nuanced portrayal of John; Joel Sass’s direction keeps these and other hints from becoming too overt. The stripped down set design by Sass is a clever exercise in space management.
It’s not really possible to talk about the details of this play without spoiling, so you might to bring a few friends along so that you can talk about it later. The acting is good, the script surprising, and the tale moving and worth sitting through the slow beginning.
The Realistic Joneses plays through October 16 at Park Square Theatre.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.