The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno (Drama League Award nominated, Drama Desk Special Award winner and Winner Best Play on Broadway 2014) comes to Red Stitch Theatre later this month. Directed by theatre practitioner and theatre historian, Julian Meyrick, it is a work that explores life, death, love and loss and, says Meyrick, how weird and funny people are. “How ordinary people are a true subject for profound and telling drama. The story of The Realistic Jones is simple to the point of being classical. It sets up a problem but explores it in a completely unexpected way. It is a great play, I have come to see that now. Its immense inner world is touching, draining, inspiring – and above all real”
The work invites us into the lives of two suburban couples who have more in common than just their identical homes and the same last name. Bob and Jennifer Jones are a middle aged man and wife who have found contentment in a small town in view of a spectacular mountain. Their peace is disturbed by the sudden arrival of John and Pony, a younger couple who have rented the house next door – and are also called Jones. The exchanges and shared conversations between the couples becomes a moving and beautiful tribute to, essentially, the stuff that makes us human.
Meyrick first read The Realistic Joneses in early 2016. “Neil Pigot (actor) gave it to me, after he got a copy from Will Eno, the playwright, who we both know, ” says Meyrick. “I thought it was an interesting play, but not more than that initially. I wanted to direct it because of my relationship with Neil, Will and Red Stitch. It was a good ‘fit’ for all of us, and I didn’t think any more about it. I didn’t subject the play to close questioning, or do a lot of soul searching. I just thought ‘this’ll be good, because it will be a challenge’. And it is.”
This is Meyrick’s third Eno play having directed Thom Pain in 2007, then Lady Gray in 2009. Both men share the love of drama and the desire to deeply understand how a play works. Meyrick talks about his special relationship with Eno: “Working on a play means working with a playwright, always. Sometimes the playwright is alive. Sometimes the playwright lets you sleep on their couch and you get to talk with them and hang out. In 2010-11 I was in upstate New York and I spent time with Will doing just that. We went to see Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation together. I wrote him a long letter that was basically a dramaturgical analysis of how the play worked. We exchanged articles and readings after that. Will has a deep understanding of what drama is, its qualities and possibilities. His plays arise from this understanding. There’s instinct and natural creativity there. But there is also acute insight bordering on genius. How Will sees the world is how I see the world. That makes his plays imperative for me to direct. I feel they choose me rather than the other way round.”
As a director, Meyrick’s work reflects his incredibly profound world view. According to Meyrick, dramatic art has the responsibility to tell the stories that make us human – the good, the bad and the ugly – it is about the human condition in all its glory and fundamental verity.
“Life is short, and it is best to be direct in all that you do. I direct plays to say something about the world I think is important and this can be political, but it always involves the human element. My grandmother used to say ‘never show me a picture that doesn’t have a person in it’. I’m the same. I’m interested in people, what they go through, how they suffer, how they cope and find joy. I like to drill down into these things in great detail. My plays ask big questions about life’s ultimate meaning. I think drama can and should ask these questions. It’s an art form capable of articulating them in a direct, albeit sometimes confronting way.”
The Realistic Joneses is a play that does what a good friend does and that is it helps to make sense of things. It is funny, passionate, weird and revealing. Says Meyrick: “You will laugh till your side ache and your heart will be squeezed in your chest till you feel the sadness of the world like the living current that it is. It is a profound and profoundly gentle play. Yet all of life and love is in it. It is beautiful as the world we live in is beautiful – the world we are all destined, sooner or later, to leave.”
April 25 – May 28