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Review: The Realistic Joneses at Limelight on Oxford

By Abbie Gallagher

“Two households. Both alike in eccentricity”

In an American suburb, middle aged married couple Jennifer and Bob Jones are greeted by their new neighbours, John and Pony Jones who have just moved in down the road. Pleasantries and unpleasantries are exchanged. Both couples are troubled in their own way, with John and Pony trying to get out of a romance rut, while Jennifer and Bob’s marriage is fraying under the pressure of Bob’s unspecified illness. In scenes that are more episodic than narrative, we follow these two couples through the daily grind, in each other’s company and behind closed doors.

It’s a simple premise, and the playwright knows this. Rather than a rollercoaster of an epic, we merely see these ordinary people live out their lives. And you know what? Thank goodness, because that is enough. Life is interesting. Life has conflict. Life doesn’t always come in a neat little package.

By coming to the show, you won’t see dramatic monologues or gritty arguments in a love triangle. You’ll see the awkward neighbour encounter while grocery shopping and the painful attempts at extracting oneself from the situation. You’ll see a woman at the end of her rope while trying to deal with her husband’s denial of his medical condition. You’ll see mild squabbles over wine, and banter over the automatic outdoor lights. You’ll laugh, you’ll be moved, and you’ll feel like you just watched a filmstrip of your own life.

Actors Suzann James (Jennifer), Jeff Houston (Bob), Jodine Muir (Pony), and David Jeffrey (John) are all perfectly cast in their roles and make these individuals, who could easily stoop to caricatures, feel genuine and real. The characters seamlessly shift between being likeable and funny to the kind of people you’d walk three blocks to avoid. The action is brilliantly supported with a fantastic script, charmingly disjointed, but still making sense, even when it seems like it shouldn’t. It’s just the way real people talk. There’s no grand resolution, no definitive ending, but you come out wholly satisfied and hopeful for the lives of these four people you just spent time with.

Limelight on Oxford is not the easiest space to work with. It can be intimate to the point of claustrophobia if not given to a careful hand. Thankfully director Julie Baz has the ability to guide her cast flawlessly around the stage, taking advantage of the minimal space, creating interest without overstaying their welcome.

If I had to criticise anything, and I mean literally scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel anything, it would be that I found it slightly odd that a clearly American script lacked the accents. To hear Australians lament raccoons instead of bin chickens pawing through their rubbish was out of place, but you’ll forgive that very quickly.

The Realistic Joneses is exactly what it says on the tin. Real, warm, moving and delightfully weird. If you miss this one, you’ll be sorry.

Photo Credit: Clare Hawley

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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