James Wagner, Allison Jean White, Rebecca Watson and Rod Gnapp in The Practical Joneses.

Pictures by way of Kevin Berne

Phrases do not come simply to the 4 personalities who populate Will Eno’s The Practical Joneses. And once they do come, very frequently the ones phrases keep up a correspondence the failure of verbal exchange itself.

That is rarely new to theater of the previous six many years, however familiarity does not show you how to take care of. In ACT’s present manufacturing within the Geary Theater, banal exchanges galvanize laughter, dull exchanges galvanize laughter, non sequiturs galvanize laughter. However the play is hardly ever a traditional comedy that exists only to dispense typical gags.

In spite of the hilarity, that is greater than abundant, playwright Eno, director Loretta Greco and the forged have darker issues on their minds. The laughs can not dispel chronic questions: What is troubling those reputedly standard, quite shrewd other folks; why can not they attach?

Bob and Jennifer Jones (Rod Knapp and Rebecca Watson) are of their 40s, and lengthy-time citizens of a bucolic the city close to a mountain vary someplace in those United States. Pals John and Pony Jones (James Wagner and Allison Jean White), who glance to be of their mid-20s, are freshmen. The Joneses don’t seem to be similar.

Their restricted interplay occurs within the grassy backyard among the 2-tale houses that the couples occupy, even though small adjustments of surroundings and lighting fixtures sometimes recommend indoor places.

The play opens and closes on nights which are transparent and darkish, with too-brilliant stars sparkling thru a black backdrop. Within the hour and forty five mins among the ones bookends, longings, fears and frustrations floor, however little adjustments and not anything is solved.

Eno’s discussion has the hoop of recent American speech, although now and then it sounds too glib for a considerate comedy-drama.


A young second for the more youthful Joneses: White and Wagner

Once we meet the older couple, Jennifer is straining to make dialog with Bob, with little good fortune. Their silences most certainly remaining so long as their speeches, if now not longer, and recommend a just right deal concerning the pair.

Nonetheless, she has to verbalize, “It kind of feels like we do not communicate.” And Bob has to respond, “What are we doing at this time? Math?”

As amusing-producing couplet, the phraseology works. As revelation of personality, it provides not anything that hasn’t already been laid out.

A couple of mins later, after the sudden arrival of John and Pony, Eno’s weak spot for an inexpensive snort plants up another time, in spades: Each guests sprint to the house’s toilets, one at a time and with urgency.

Bob’s question: “What are they doing there?”

Jennifer’s reaction: “I would bet it is one in every of issues.”

The target audience’s response: gleeful howls.

Fortunately, headier currents emerge rather hastily, unmasking fears of mortality and thinly shielded concerns approximately fates which might be essentially unknown and unpredictable. To various levels, as well as, we find that all of the characters percentage bonds and wishes caused by loneliness.

Their fears of dying have rational grounds, however I’m going to chorus from providing main points. That might be one thing of a spoiler to somebody who attends.

The ones fears by no means drag the court cases into gloom, then again. In crisp, quirky and frequently humorous scenes, characters extra frequently draw convenience and strengthen from new associates quite than from their spouses. Incessantly stumbling, they divulge obscure misgivings over lifestyles paths now not taken or careers now not pursued, settle for compassionate gestures that come without or with phrases, and transfer directly to no matter what will come subsequent.

If the play has an anchor of balance, it comes from Watson’s heartfelt portrayal of Jennifer. Coping with Bob, whom she loves and sustains, isn’t any simple activity. As expertly performed via Knapp, he suffers so much visibly from the illness that every one worry, and expresses his situation thru stilted speech styles and cynicism. By contrast, Wagner and White convey younger power and liveliness to John and Pony with out undercutting the uncertainties that each and every harbors approximately himself or herself or approximately their dating. Their very important cheeriness could also be self-deceiving, however it is infectious. In my opinion and jointly, the performances draw humanity in addition to that aforementioned laughter out of The Practical Joneses.

For any person who is taken by way of Eno’s taste and craftsmanship, ACT’s providing gets corporate in San Francisco in a couple of days. The playwright’s Middletown, an enigmatic comedy that has been likened to Our The city, runs March 24-April 23 at Customized Made Theatre on Powell Side road.

The Practical Joneses runs thru April three in ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$one hundred and five, from 415-749-2228 or act-sf.org

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