By: Sandi Durell
Wow, did you hear about the cast in this new play on Broadway? It’s got star talent bulging out of the Lyceum Theatre – Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Marisa Tomei. What a collective of top draw names! But you also have to be an aficionado of playwright Will Eno’s brand of humor and cynicism about life and realism or maybe walk away feeling that all this talent has been wasted. Eno talks in circles and is in his own zone as we meet two couples named Jones, living down the street from each other – Bob (Tracy Letts) and Jennifer (Toni Collette) and John (Michael C. Hall) and Pony (I didn’t make that up) – Marisa Tomei.
Dialogue can be fragmented, each one in their own heads of thought processes but filled with humor, pathos and existential mind games.
In Smalltown USA, Jennifer and Bob are seated in their backyard listening to the sounds of evening approaching and the conversation goes like this: “It just seems like we don’t talk” (says Jennifer) to which Bob replies “What are we doing right now? Math?” Bob suffers from a debilitating rare neurological disease that appears to be robbing him of his memory. He is rude and mostly non-communicative. Jennifer is trying to be the all- caring wife but it’s wearing thin. Enter John and Pony. John makes a joke out of everything. He’s a sweet guy who is hiding a secret from Pony, as ditzy a dame as you’d ever meet (played to the hilt by Tomei), who wants nothing to do with reality.
There’s a dead squirrel in the mix who receives a proper burial in a garbage can, eulogized – – “ And off you go into the great oak tree in the sky . . .”
At a later time, Pony and Bob play a game of relating their innermost fears to each other – – Terror, Abandonment, Loneliness and we wonder whether they have actually engaged in an extramarital affair.
Mostly, Eno pushes boundaries and projects hopelessness in this unconventional comedy and, for the greater audiences, is an acquired taste that you either find deliciously fulfilling or prefer a different flavor.
The cast is so good that you become mesmerized in their idiosyncratic, austere exchanges, however realistic or not they may be. Sam Gold directs and that’s no easy task. What’s it all about Eno?
*Photos: Joan Marcus
Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th St., NYC 212239-6200 www.telecharge.com 1 hr. 35 minutes – no intermission.