Kansas City Actors Theatre did some introspection recently and narrowed its mission down to just four words: Great Actors. Smart Plays. It was in that spirit that KCAT selected Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses as the final show of their 2016-2017 season. Not only does it have four outstanding, funny, and complex roles for local actors, but the script itself carries a largely unknown acclaim, having been awarded two Drama Desk Special Awards, among other accolades. It’s the perfect showcase for KCAT’s four-word mission.
The story revolves around two suburban couples named “Jones” in a quaint mountain town. John and Pony are new to the neighborhood and work to get to know their neighbors Jennifer and Bob, the other Joneses. As they talk, they come to learn they have more in common than their shared last names and identical homes. As their relationships begin to intertwine, the Joneses must decide between their idyllic fantasies and their imperfect realities and, ultimately, confront mortality. The Realistic Joneses is a comic and profound reflection on the ridiculous and mundane ways we adapt to life and death in order to “keep up” with those around us, and in its Broadway debut it was named “Best Play on Broadway” by USA Today and “Best American Play of the Year” by The Guardian.
Kansas City Actors Theatre is known for great actors and great acting, and The Realistic Joneses presents KCAT with an excellent opportunity to showcase four great actors living in Kansas City. The cast brings together Brian Paulette, Carla Noack, Phil Fiorini, and Ashley Pankow, giving them each an opportunity to explore rich characters. “It’s bizarre, and quirky, and sad, and funny – and it almost doesn’t make sense,” says Paulette. “But then you let go, and some deeper part of your brain says, ‘Yes, I get it.’ These are people we can relate to, dealing with life, mortality, and existence, but in a sublimely lighthearted way.”
Great actors still need a great play to work with, and with The Realistic Joneses Kansas City Actors Theatre continues that tradition. KCAT sees playwright Will Eno as an important new voice and, since he has never been produced professionally in the area, he fits in perfectly with their current season of neglected storytellers. “We picked the play because we all loved it,” says Director John Rensenhouse when speaking of the KCAT Artistic Committee’s decision to produce the play. “When I brought it to the group, Brian [Paulette] read it and immediately said, ‘We’re doing it!’”
The Realistic Joneses will be presented at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station from May 24 to June 11. Tickets are on sale through the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222 or online at kcactors.org.