Stephen Kaplan’s “Tracy Jones,” making its New Jersey premiere through Nov. 5 at Art House Productions in Jersey City, began life five years ago as part of the theater’s INKubator program for new playwrights. The intervening pandemic has given this poignant, one-act comedy resonance and context it might have lacked otherwise. If there is one thing we learned during those dark days of shutdowns, quarantines and social distancing, it’s what it feels like to be lonely.
The black box theater in Art House Productions’ beautiful new building in the Powerhouse Arts District has played host to several musical performances since opening, but “Tracy Jones” is the first play to be produced in the space. It’s a brave choice, and a bit ironic, since a crippling fear of people not showing up drives the narrative. But that shouldn’t be a concern. The show is well worth seeing — funny and touching, if messily executed.
The lights blink on in the proscenium-less space, revealing our titular protagonist, a middle-aged bank manager. A woman without family or friends, Tracy almost lost her job trying to establish a relationship with one of the clients whose signatures she collects daily on account and loan applications. Helen Coxe portrays Tracy as a woman wracked by self-doubt, if not self-loathing; despite her job, she has become convinced that her life has no meaning. But she also is wise enough to know that things won’t change unless she makes something happen.