How well do you know your neighbors? When asked recently about the best thing they’d learned from talking to someone in their neighborhood, local actors Ashley Pankow and Brian Paulette both had to think… for a while. Ashley and Brian are two of the four artists featured in Kansas City Actors Theatre’s new production of Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses, a funny and thought-provoking reflection on life in the suburbs, finding connections, and facing mortality in our modern lives.
Both Brian and Ashley realized that they’d never really learned much from the people in their community because they usually don’t interact. “I think we live in a time when people sadly don’t know their neighbors, which even I’m guilty of,” says Brian. “Maybe we’re just bigger jerks than we used to be.”
This topic is one of the themes of The Realistic Joneses, a story about how we connect (or choose not to connect) with the people around us, even the people who live with us, in everyday life and in times of crisis. “You have to share things with your neighbors,” adds Ashley with a smirk, “and sometimes you want to keep them at arm’s length.”
In the award-winning play, Bob and Jennifer Jones meet their new neighbors, John and Pony Jones, in their backyard one night. Over the course of the story, they live out many of the experiences that are staples of modern living: running into each other at the grocery store, late-night backyard small-talk, and carnivals, to name a few. However, much like life, we find that what the Joneses avoid talking about becomes just as important as what they actually discuss.
Indeed, it may be that the communication we avoid is part of the key to good living, and Ashley is still optimistic when it comes to neighbors. “The thing is, if a neighbor walks by and we have a nice chat, I feel really good.”
Making the connection might not be all that bad. Someone just needs to take the first step.
See Brian, Ashley, Carla Noack, and Phil Fiorini in Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses, directed by John Rensenhouse and playing at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station from May 24 to June 11. Info and tickets available at www.kcactors.org or by calling the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222.