Preston Jones Jones, Preston - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jones, Preston 1936–

Jones is an American playwright, actor, and director. His first play, A Texas Trilogy, reveals him to be a regional playwright, with characters and settings drawn from the rural Southwest. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-75.)

Brendan Gill

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Plainly, [Preston Jones] is an ambitious man. It is his good fortune to be making his début on Broadway with three plays instead of one; it is his ill fortune that Broadway, on hearing of the plays' rapturous reception out of town, and with its usual tendency toward overexcitement, came to regard his advent as the Advent. If the triple début ["A Texas Trilogy"] is unprecedented, the plays are not; they are specimens of a kind of domestic comic melodrama long familiar to our stage and must be dealt with as such. Mr. Jones is talented and has an excellent ear, but at the moment his stagecraft is more nearly carpentry than marquetry—when two characters are required for reasons of plot to have a private conversation, he is not above sending a supernumerary character forcibly off to the bathroom. When he must handle more than two or three characters at a time, the effort shows. Nevertheless, we are lucky to have him among us, and not least because he is able to make us laugh. (p. 75)

Brendan Gill, in The New Yorker (© 1976 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), October 4, 1976.

Harold Clurman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Eugene O'Neill once said that the United States was the greatest failure in history. It had entered the world arena with every possible advantage—a new land, noble ideals, few hierarchical burdens—but it had muffed its opportunity by overlooking the Bible's challenge, "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" In its rush toward material power, America had lost all valid faith. On this premise O'Neill planned a nine-play cycle to be called A Tale of Possessors, Self-Dispossessed.

That cycle would undoubtedly have been a tragic work. But imagine if someone today undertook to compose a similar series as farce. Might it not resemble Preston Jones's A Texas Trilogy …?

Mr. Jones does not seek to prove anything. As for O'Neill's "thesis" he might respond with a four-letter expletive signifying "Perish the thought!" His trilogy is "simply" a depiction of citizens in Bradleyville, a tiny Texas town from 1953 to 1973. It is an unsentimental comedy and much of it is very funny. (p. 348)

It has been said that when history repeats itself, it does so as farce. A Texas Trilogy is not farce; it is a genre piece in three parts … which, to begin with, has the appearance of minute realism that gradually turns to something close to savagely hilarious grotesquerie. Though [several comparisons can be suggested] it is an original work. It...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Alan Rich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What Mr. Jones has created most notably in [A Texas Trilogy] … is a series of verbal tone poems about empty lives in an empty setting, a decaying small town somewhere in west Texas. As a fledgling author (with, to be sure, a considerable background in other aspects of theater, as an actor and a director), his command of both tone and poetry is remarkable. His models aren't difficult to fathom: popular fiction of the Peyton Place variety for the sense of creating and interweaving of character; William Inge's better plays for the technique of relating character to setting. But Mr. Jones has one talent that far surpasses either of these dubious sources: a gift for the indigenous, if not always ear-tickling, individualities in language.

Inasmuch as the plays are given without the customary amenity of a printed glossary or translator-earphones, perhaps I'd better tell you a little more about this language. Texas is a rather large state, and one effect of this size is that words tend to sprawl out to fill the surrounding space. Unlike people in, say, Rhode Island, Texans have room to carry around double names, like Billy Bob or Martha Ann. One-syllable words also tend to stretch out into two syllables or more; vowels, similarly, ooze out into diphthongs. Extra words, sometimes mildly profane, sometimes get added to sentences, simply as ballast. That old paradigmatic sentence becomes, in Texan, "Whar's muh ay-unt's bah-God...

(The entire section is 550 words.)