Farce `Jake's Women' saves room for love and laughter

Theater review

October 27, 2006|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Time spent with Jake in Colonial Players' current production of "Jake's Women" is time well spent.

Neil Simon's 1987 play is ideally suited to the Annapolis troupe's intimate, in-the-round space. The audience is invited into Jake's apartment to become part of his roller-coaster life as he struggles with past and present relationships with seven women.

Director Beverly Hill van Joolen has assembled a top-notch cast with whom the audience feels a personal involvement.

Bowie veterinarian Jim Murphy makes an astonishing acting debut in the demanding role of Jake, a successful and witty writer. Murphy becomes a different Jake with each woman -- some real and others springing from his imagination. Not only does Murphy portray intense emotions, he also can share an intimate joke through a subtle look in his eye and in his asides to the audience.

Jake's late wife, Julie, is brought to life by Ally Raber, a recent Catholic University graduate who makes her Colonial debut. In her portrayal of a 20-something Julie -- who died in a car accident at 36 -- Raber brings us a lively and loving young woman who touches our hearts. She is somewhat resentful that Jake has conjured her up at an age younger than their daughter is.

As adult daughter Molly, veteran actor Shannon Benil is initially ambivalent about reaching out to the mother she barely remembers but clearly loves her father, despite the many trials she encounters.

As current wife Maggie, Zarah Roberts gives a richly nuanced performance that conveys aching confusion in the throes of this domestic upheaval. An onlooker as Jake spars with his current girlfriend, Sheila, she displays a sharp comic wit.

As Sheila, Kate Wheeler gives a gem of a performance, full of mixed emotions as she comically tries to fit into whatever changing role Jake wants her to play at the moment.

Ten-year-old Bronwyn van Joolen, the director's daughter, plays Molly at 12, and holds her own in her first "grown-up" play.

Lighting up her every scene in a series of mostly outrageous outfits, multitalented Carol Cohen defines Jake's sister Karen, as she alternates between sympathy for and impatience with her brother.

Adding her own deft sense of comedy is Dianne Hood as Jake's psychiatrist Edith, who alternately cajoles and spars with her patient.

Running Thursdays through Sundays until Nov. 18, `Jake's Women' offers an evening of fun and insights about life and love. Tickets cost $16 for adults and $11 for seniors and students and are available at the box office, by calling 410-268-7373 or by visiting www.cplayers.com.

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