Encore Michigan

Paging ‘Tracy Jones’ to The Williamston. Anyone named Tracy Jones?

Review June 07, 2022 Encore Staff

WILLIAMSTON, MI–One of the most under-rated needs of humanity is connection. Not mere company. But connection.

More people than we know about are lonely, feel isolated, in need of human connection. Coming out of Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to remember the importance of making connections, especially for fragile people.

Tracy Jones, by Stephen Kaplan, is a story about people longing to connect. Tracy Jones (Emily Sutton-Smith) has rented out the party room of the Jones Street Bar and Grill for a gathering of women named Tracy Jones. A new-accounts manager at a bank, Ms. Jones has gone to great effort and expense to get the word out for months.

During the play’s exposition, we learn that she is bit socially isolated, the outsider who is not included in their office banter, after-work drinks, etc. She lives alone. And she hatches this scheme to connect with strangers. The link? They have the same name as her. The thinnest of connections. It sounds a bit desperate, because, at bottom, it is.

Alison Megroet plays the hostess at the pub, a relentlessly perky and process-correct waitress/host with the most on her first day, looking after Ms. Jones, organizing the room, bucking up the stressed out Jones. Madelyn Porter plays Tracy Jones #2, someone with less obvious reasons to connect, and who presents herself with a bit higher professional status than she has in reality. Steve DeBruyne plays Tracy Jones #3, a reluctant participant in the gathering, who missed the fact that the gathering was for women only, but ultimately has the story that galvanizes the three Tracy Joneses and their host into something coherent and a landing place for the arc of the play.

The story is presented in about 90 minutes without intermission. Directed by Tony Caselli, the choice of Tracy Jones is well-timed. After spending two years without live theatre, remote work now being a norm and Covid cases still spiking and receding, there has been a marked statistical rise in depression, people seeking mental health assistance, feelings of isolation. Indeed, Tracy #1, the organizer, curtly rebels against a suggestion that she hold the gathering by Zoom.

Kaplan’s writing is authentic. And he dials in a deft and funny piece of recurring business about a platter of crudite that is emblematic of the fussiness of today’s consumers–a level of self-indulgent fussiness that our parents and grandparents could hardly have imagined in their day.

Tracy Jones is not a profound story, but it is a story that taps into a timely issue in our communities, workplaces, schools and social groups. Social media has transformed humanity and our socialization in ways perhaps not fully appreciated yet. People have been connecting remotely for years via Facebook, Facetime, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, and more recently Zoom and Teams. But it maybe wasn’t until the Covid pandemic kept us at home for so long, and socially distanced, did we begin to feel the imbalance of online vs. offline connection.

This story might well prompt many of us to step back and examine not only whether we have enough healthy connection in our lives, but also make us think about the people in our orbit that may need more human and touch-connection than we have been giving them.

Tracy Jones plays through June 19. The theatre’s website with ticket info and Covid policies are here.

Week of 7/4/2022

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