When JAKE’S WOMEN opened at New York’s Neil Simon Theatre on March 24, 1992, it ran to the delight of audiences for 245 performances starring Alan Alda, who later reprised the role of Jake in the 1996 television-film adaptation. Paul Kerrigan carries out well the challenging acting tasks demanded in bringing the complex inner world of Jake to the Colonial Playhouse stage. Through imagined conversations with the women in his life, Jake struggles to sort out distinctions between the world he comfortably controls with his word processor, and the real-life world that has consistently eluded his control.
Jake makes it clear from the outset that he is first and foremost a writer. As he puts it later in this two-act play, he writes to survive. The problem is that he wants much more than just to survive. He wants to capture what now seems to have eluded him his entire life; trust in his ability to engage in a truly intimate relationship with the women he professes to love. This perplexing, seemingly unattainable need has become an obsession taking over his thoughts due to revelations during the opening scene that his second wife, Maggie, of eight years suddenly wants a six-month separation to try and sort out her feelings before continuing their marriage. Cindy Starcher offers a touching performance as Maggie, the current woman in Jake’s real life with whom he must now strive to better understand.
First to appear in a series of imagined conversations with Jake’s various women is his sister who shows up in the aftermath of his wife’s exit. As his sweet and loyal sister, Karen, Lauri Jacobs offers the kind of caring observations and advice that can only come from family. However, the witty dialogue revealed in this interchange, as with others, only demonstrates how deft Jake has become in authoring the substance of conversations during these imagined encounters as though constructing dialogue in one of his novels.
All of JAKE’S WOMEN, especially those who have known him the longest, and that includes his loving daughter, understand Jake better than he does himself. Jillian Gorman is delightful as Molly, Jake’s daughter at age 12. Chelley Pascetta plays 21-year-old Molly with convincing sensitivity. When Jake wants to recall the feeling of acceptance he so strongly desires, he conjures up conversations with younger Molly. Imagined conversations with older Molly are somewhat more strained since she brings with her a more mature perspective on the challenges her dad has to deal with in his present marriage.
In the midst of growing self-doubt and despair Jake turns to imagined conversations with his therapist, Edith, played with wonderful comedic timing by Norma Kider. Through repartee indicative of resistance to useful insight, Jake accepts the presence of a metaphorical “two inch” psychological barrier that relentlessly blocks his path to forming in his present marriage the imagined intimate and unconditionally loving relationship he wants to believe he had with his first wife, Julie. Played by Aimee Theresa with energetic conviction, Julie appears frequently in service of Jake’s fantasized past marriage, ultimately becoming instrumental in helping Jake meet his real life dilemma.
Jake’s brief fling during Maggie’s six month absence is with an innocent, obliging to a point, woman named Shelia, played most ably by Kathy Nay, which provides a meaningful test of whether or not he is really capable of sharing himself, of actually listening to and seeing the women in his life as distinct persons separate from objects of his own design. In other words, growing beyond and transcending the age-old relationship quagmires into which men, in the company of their women, traditionally find no easy escape. Jake’s emotional ride through his own quagmire is the substance which makes this play interesting. The fine acting skills displayed by all also make it fun to watch.
by Neil Simon
Directed by Kathy Quinn
Assisted by Jackie Anderson
February 1 – 16, 2013
522 W. Magnolia Avenue
Aldan, PA 19018