Theater review: ‘The Realistic Joneses’ at 35below

FOR REAL: The Realistic Joneses is now onstage at 35below. Pictured, from left, are Chloe Zeitounian, Badi Mirheli, Kier Klepzig  and Christine Eide.
FOR REAL: The Realistic Joneses is now onstage at 35below. Pictured, from left, are Chloe Zeitounian, Badi Mirheli, Kier Klepzig and Christine Eide. Photo courtesy of Ellipsis Theater Company

The Realistic Joneses, produced by the locally based Ellipsis Theater Company, is a tale of new neighbors and rocky relationships. It remains onstage at Asheville Community Theatre’s 35below performance space through Sunday, May 21.

Written by Will Eno, The Realistic Joneses appears, at first, to be a quirky comedy. The lives of two couples, both named Jones, collide with furious force. But it soon becomes clear that the neighbors won’t just be sharing chitchats or stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar. There is some of that, but the problems that haunt this bunch are common in some ways and unique in others. Communication, or the lack of it, is central to the story and its outcome.

The play opens on the back porch of Bob and Jennifer Jones (Kier Klepzig and Christine Eide), who seem settled into life in their small mountain town. But the scene is transformed by the arrival of new neighbors John and Pony Jones (Badi Mirheli and Chloe Zeitounian).

From the start, it’s obvious that these two Jones families share nothing beyond a last name. Bob is quiet and unable to do much for himself. Jennifer provides the strength and direction in their relationship. John is quirky, to say the least, and Pony — young, naive and insecure — is a bit of a puzzle.

There are some comic moments, initially, as the four try to get to know each other. But lurking below the surface is a secret. There is something terribly wrong, and only poor Pony is left in the dark, struggling with her own emotional issues. But perhaps she is not as out of the loop as it seems.

The secret takes its toll on all involved. A range of emotions is explored — frustration, fear, anger, loneliness, uncertainty and even love, or what is left of it.

This cast brings great depth to the story. As Bob, Klepzig creates a character who is teetering on the edge but remains likable while wrestling with some serious issues. Playing supportive wife Jennifer, Eide must provide the strength to maintain the home — handling the household duties and much more.

At the other Jones household, it’s clear that John (Mirheli) is disturbed. Mirheli — who is riveting in the role — delivers some of the most fascinating dialogue.

As Pony, Zeitounian is caught up in an overwhelming situation without realizing just what is going on. It’s a sensitive performance, and perhaps this is the character the viewer cares the most about.

Director Ellisa Peragine guides a quartet with enormous talent. The performances are powerful, profound and leave a lasting impact. The energy is amplified by the confines of 35below’s black box theater space. Those seated on the front row are just inches from the action, and even the back of the house is close enough to feel the heat. Combined with the sharp skills in this cast, it makes for an often intense night of theater.

WHAT: The Realistic Joneses by Ellipsis Theater Company
WHERE:  35below at Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St. ashevilletheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, May 21. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $18

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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