Letting Jake Go

Last September I auditioned for the part of Jake in the Neil Simon play Jake’s Women.  The director chose someone else.  I was sad, and that sense of woe has been a frequent visitor in the months since.  I so much wanted to be Jake.

The play is about a writer who lives in his head, working on characters and plot while largely ignoring his wife Maggie.  Jake has conversations (some imaginary and some real) with the women in his life – his current wife, former wife, daughter, sister, therapist and new girlfriend.

Jake’s Women opened a few days ago in St. Thomas, Ontario.  I went last night.  I’ve known for months that I would see the production, rather than staying away from something that represented pain.  The truth is that I love the play.  It has both funny and tender moments.

I got there early and scored a front row seat.  The set was spectacular, especially Jake’s home office at the top of the stairs.  I sat quietly for half an hour, and all sorts of thoughts came my way.  I wanted the theatre to be full (about 150 people).  I wanted the theatre to be virtually empty (How small of you, Bruce).  I wanted the actors to be great, totally inhabiting their roles.  I wanted the actors to stumble over their lines.  I wanted Jake to be superb in his happiness, sadness, anger, giddiness and love – the best Jake ever.  I wanted him to be ordinary so I could think I would have done better.

As the story unfolded, I realized that it was a first class rendition of Simon’s play.  And Jake was brilliant.  Perhaps far better than I would have been.  I enjoyed the evening immensely.

At the end, as the actors were fanned out across the stage for their bows, I stood, clapped and smiled.  They deserved the standing O.  Although I had planned to see Jake’s Women once this week and once the next, I won’t be coming back.  I am complete with Jake.  What’s in him is in me.  On we go.

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