Johanna Day, Parker Posey, Glenn Fitzgerald,
and Tracy Letts in The Realistic Joneses
(© Joan Marcus)
Johanna Day, Parker Posey, Glenn Fitzgerald,
and Tracy Letts in The Realistic Joneses
(© Joan Marcus)
Like Samuel Beckett, Will Eno uses the structure of language itself to tell a story. His characters often grapple with finding the right words to express themselves and the realization that sometimes those words don't exist. His thought-provoking new work, The Realistic Joneses, now getting a superb production at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, is no exception.

Set in a nondescript suburban town, the work zeros in on two couples, both named Jones. As the play opens, the older Joneses, Jennifer (Johanna Day) and Bob (Tracy Letts) are sitting at a table in their backyard, enjoying a warm spring night. They speak in fragments that answer questions they've asked each other days, weeks, and years ago.

Suddenly, they're disrupted by a loud clash followed by the entrance of the younger Joneses, Pony (Parker Posey) and John (Glenn Fitzgerald). They just moved into the neighborhood and have brought a bottle of wine for their new neighbors.

The couples exchange awkward phrases as they struggle to understand and be understood by their neighbors. In clumsily trying to explain what brought them to move to this town, John says, "It's what my lady wanted. And what my lady wants, with some huge and basic exceptions, my lady gets." Eno's characters aren't always that self-aware, so when moments like this occur it's exhilarating and often pretty funny.

The play, directed with acute precision and restraint by the endlessly talented Sam Gold, delights in these contradictions as it ambles from one Joneses house to another. The characters don't fit into archetypal boxes.

Pony is both beautiful and strange, kind and aloof, brought to vivid life by Posey who effortlessly hits each beat. John's biting sense of humor often masks his vulnerability, and Fitzgerald embodies this to his core. Letts and Day exude a quiet naturalism that grounds the play.

There's a moment late in the one-act when Eno reaches a little too far to connect a couple of the characters. It's the kind of moment that shouldn't be revealed, but needless to say, it was the only time I felt anything in this world was out of step.