Theater: 'The Realistic Joneses' challenges yet champions reality
Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts all play characters named Jones in "The Realistic Joneses," now on Broadway.
Like TV’s “Seinfeld,” “The Realistic Joneses” is a show about nothing. It’s often very funny and features a gang of four (all named Jones), although they are not as self-involved or minutiae-obsessed as their broadcast counterparts.
The Joneses have more serious things on their minds, to the extent they have anything on their minds at all. Bob (Tracy Letts) has a degenerative nerve disease known as Harriman Leavy Syndrome, as does, it seems, his new neighbor, John (Michael C. Hall). Bob’s case of HLS appears considerably further advanced. He is taken care of by his patient wife, Jennifer (Toni Colette), the most grounded member of the quartet. John’s wife, Pony (Marisa Tomei), knows nothing of his condition.
While the disease features prominently in the play, it’s more peripheral than focal. It’s hard for anything of substance to take center stage given the endless barrage of nonsensical non-sequiturs, coming especially from John. Hall is absolutely hysterical in the role, a study in guileless deadpan. Tomei is also very funny as John’s sexy but off-kilter wife. Wide-eyed and quirky, she’s so impulsive that she gets together with Bob to “exchange bodily fluids,” as John describes their tryst. A very solid Colette anchors the play; she and Letts function more or less as straight men, but each provides some laughs as well.
“The Realistic Joneses” will disappoint those looking for a linear plot or even the payoff of a distinct ending. But playwright Will Eno’s dizzying tilt-a-whirl of a comedy is just the ticket if you’re up for a ride for its own sake.