So last month (January) I went to New Lenox, IL to see a friend of mine in Jake’s Women by Neil Simon as produced by Spotlight Theater. Now this was directed by first time director: Nicole Fleming. Now if you remember, a few months prior I saw Spotlight Theater’s production of The Deadly Game which I really enjoyed… this show, however, brought out a very different perspective.
Essentially Jake’s Women revolves around Jake, a writer, who is at a crossroads in his life, his second marriage is failing, he’s slowly losing his sanity, and he’s trying to hold on to the only piece of light to get through the darkness. However, the women that he talks to aren’t in his reality, they are versions of the women in his reality that have a permanent residence in his head.
What Nicole has managed to do (for a first time director) is to separate the reality from the fiction in Jake’s head, so it was relatively easy for the audience to grasp and understand. What she wasn’t able to do: shorten the show, there were delays and the show was hitting close to three hours, far too long for a community theater production even with an intermission. People were getting edgy towards the end and it was far too late.
The acting for the most part was very well done, the major issues I had was Michelle Burton as Sheila. She comes in during the second act, but there is an nervousness to her that was so off putting that it took me out of the moment of the scenes that she was in. She was also the only character in the show that didn’t have a “fantasy” equivalent to her reality. Kathi Casper as Julie was off putting but in a much different way, visually she was much older than the character requires, but her characterization was spot on… unfortunately because there was such a discrepancy any scenes that she was in all pulled me out of enjoying the show. The remainder of the female cast did rather well, including the very young Becca Valek (who was also in BTG’s Wait Until Dark) who did a wonderful job as Molly.
The only man in the cast, Jeff Gamlin, was Jake… the man the rest of the show revolves around. If there was ever an issue I had with Jeff’s acting it was that I can always tell when it isn’t believable. Being able to fake your character isn’t the same as living it, however, as Jake… for the first time I felt that Jeff was living his character rather that trying to be the character and as thus his characterization was that much more believable. There were a lot of moments where you can tell when Jeff was overthinking his character and it “broke the spell” so to speak, but when he wasn’t overthinking he did a fantastic job. Granted one of my other issues with his acting is his penchant of taking pauses when unnecessary or pausing for too long… this is something that I feel he needs to stop thinking about and just let it be naturally, except from knowing him personally he tends to pause a lot naturally… **sighs**
All in all it was a respectable show, but with too many things that pulled me out of the show and the story, it was too easy to see the flaws in the show and the desire to leave. Unfortunately you can tell this was an amateur production in a community theater group… as opposed to The Deadly Game where it was closer to professional feeling despite that also being part of the community theatre group. Granted, this could also be because this was a production of a first time director… so putting that into perspective, a respectable job overall.