04/08/2014 11:32 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

The Realistic Joneses : There Go the Neighbors

This play starts so promising, it's a shame that it heads off in such an odd direction after the opening scene.

Will Eno's script calls on two new neighbors, both named the Joneses, to take advantage of their proximity and get along. But it's their proximity and what ties them together that ultimately drives them apart. Along the way, however, there are a number of existential conversations about the role of communication to alleviate the tension that clearly exists inside of all of the dynamics among the four.

That this recipe doesn't hold up is a disappointment for the audience, who have come out to see a stellar cast of stars. Toni Collette and Tracy Letts are the established pair in this quaint town, while Marisa Tomei and Michael C. Hall make up the younger couple that is renting a house next door. Their talent is supremely evident in the first scene when the four introduce themselves to one another and to the crowd to lay down the groundwork for what will become a weird and wild ride for all.

The problem is that it's hard to follow what's happening or to understand what motivates characters to make drastic decisions that are clearly not in their best interest. Moreover, the dialogue grows cumbersome at times with so many false starts and pauses to step back and consider irrelevant and tangential points about the universe.

Even the less strange characters get on your nerves by the end. It's difficult to see through all of the muck that makes up these people's lives, particularly when trying to have compassion for Bob, played by Letts, who is suffering from a degenerative nerve disease. Your desire to care for what will become of this man is blocked out by the minutia and distractions that fill the space instead.

Perhaps that's Eno's point all along, to demonstrate how hard people find it to get real and open up about themselves with strangers. It's not a bad takeaway from a one-act play; but it also might not be the point after all.