The Joneses ends on a high note

Have you ever felt things would be easier if everyone in your family were as mentally gifted as you? Well, that may be a situation more difficult than previously fantasized.

Proudly and humorously exposing the downside of a genius family, DramaTech presents the play of a genius household: Keeping Up with the Joneses. The last two performances scheduled for tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Dean James E. Dull Theater may be your last chance to see it.

In Keeping Up with the Joneses, writer Nate Eppler details the household of geniuses from the youngest of this family unit, Calvin Jones. Calvin finds himself in an awkward period of his life when everything seems to be unstable and in a constant upheaval. Calvin’s father, Dr. Ellis Jones, is at his wit’s end with his dropout son, Alexander, and Dr. Maureen Jones finds herself drained from life and the job she’s leaving. On top of all that mayhem, Calvin has a personal problem–his fish keep dying. Intended to be guinea-pigs for an astounding experiment testing the bounds of biology, Calvin has hit a wall and must seek (is forcefully given) advice on this predicament from his family.

With wacky advice from Alexander, efficient dictation from his father and guidance from his mother, Calvin finds himself in more of a stew. Alexander, who recently discovered that costumed vigilantism is the solution to all of the world’s problems (though not knowing any one problem’s direct cause), devotes his alleged caped crusader-esque powers of deduction to finding the answers to Calvin’s problems.

Calvin, shunned away from the investigation site and again looking for more common assistance, finds no help from the two doctor Joneses. They are as helpful as any parents can be, but offer no explanation to the mystery. However, with luck, or maybe brainpower, Calvin begins to realize more about his family and how much they are interconnected, just before the tragic ending falls upon him.

The play, directed by Melissa Foulcer, features four stage veterans: Carlin Bright, Josh Bolla, Tamil Pariasamy and Aurel Lazar. Frankly, the characters were finely performed. Pariasamy, the only actor I had seen on the DramaTech stage previously, definitely excels in his dramatic roles and established the strong line of Ellis very well.

As Maureen, Bright demonstrated a compassionate side for her children and an emotional presence when considering her life. She perfectly portrayed a woman despairing the wedge that the fighting has driven between her and her husband and also wanting more from life than a job she no longer has love for.

I would have liked to see more of a comedic pitch in the first act, but I suppose that may have been my resistance to the intended situational comedy. To supply comedy to such dramatic elements as suicide, Eppler has given a superhero persona to Alex, played by Bolla, including a mask and hood for visual sensation.

Indeed the audience laughed, but I could not find anything hilarious about it. I felt that it was an acceptable choice of profession, which totally drained the humor from the situation.

Fortunately, I enjoyed the second act much more (as I am partial to the physical comedy of siblings brutalizing each other). The set should be marked as a great design, for it provided the structure of a house in the space customary for one room. The lighting was the key to this success and I was able to completely forget the actors were so limited by space. Also, the curvy walls were quite eye-catching.

I must say that I have not been to many DramaTech productions, but whenever I do go, the stage delights me. Whether the course is comedy or tragedy, I find that the stories told upon that stage are so very entertaining and provide something great for the right-brained folk on Tech’s campus.

DramaTech has kept up its excellence and reputation as the oldest continually running theater in Atlanta, and Keeping Up with the Joneses is no slouch either.

So, spend a night to enjoy a play, and keep in mind the upcoming production of Jekyll and Hyde.