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Review: Church Hill Theatre’s “Jake’s Women”

Written on:January 22, 2017
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January 22, 2017

One never knows what the weather will be like in January. The weather hasn’t been the nicest during the past two weekends and many peopled opted to stay home instead of venturing out. This past weekend was much nicer, a good weekend for the Church Hill Theatre to open their 2017 season. And what would be better than a Neil Simon comedy to brighten the January doldrums.

Theatre critic Leah D. Frank said of the play in a 1994 review, “The comedy, which starred Alan Alda when it opened on Broadway a couple of years ago, is about a successful writer’s effort to come to grips with the death of his beloved first wife so that he can get on with his second marriage. If that does not sound like comic material, it is because it is not funny.” Alda did win a Tony for his performance on Broadway.

After seeing the first act I was thinking the same. It’s not a classic Neil Simon comedy where the laughs come quick and often. It is a comedy with a few one-liners and laughable situations. I suppose one could view it more of a dark comedy. One that brings the audience into the mind of Jake as he struggles with his crumbling marriage, memories of his first wife, who tragically was killed in a car accident at age 36, and his relationships with the women in his life.

The second act, which takes place six months after the first, shows a broken man. One where the characters in his mind, the women in his life, takes over his thoughts and turns what could have been a comfortable life with a new love to total understanding that he desires to spend the rest of his life with it is his second wife.

One beautiful scene in the second act is when Jake’s imagination brings his dead first wife at the age of 35 together with their 21 year old daughter. One would hope that Jake, the writer, would actually write the scene, if for no other reason than to show it to his daughter.

Director Shelagh Grasso has put together a fine cast. Many have performed numerous times on the Church Hill Theatre stage. Greg Minahan, who plays Jake makes his Church Hill Theatre debut. Christine
Kinlock plays Maggie, Jake’s current and very estranged wife. Debra Ebersole plays Karen, Jake’s sister. Jake’s daughter, Molly, is played by two actors: Riley Sutherland as a 12-year-old and Nina Sharp as a young adult. Jane Copple takes the role of Edith, Jake’s frustrated psychiatrist. Kendall Davis, a recent Washington College graduate makes her CHT debut as Julie, Jake’s late first wife. Jake’s current love interest, Sheila, is played by Becca Van Aken.

I did hear someone say the show was boring. If it was, it was more due to quite a few monologues throughout the play. The cast did a wonderful job with the material. Perhaps the pace could have been quicker, but I didn’t find that the play was unbearably long, even if it did clock in at nearly 3 hours with just a single 10 minute intermission. It is a recommended see.

Sally Borghardt is the Producer and Michelle Christopher is the Stage Manager. Both have worked with Grasso on other productions. Carmen Grasso is responsible for the set design and construction, Barbi Bedell designed the costumes, Patrick Fee is the sound designer, and Doug Kaufmann is the light designer. Matt Folker and “Little” Speedy Christopher assist back stage and both Jim Johnson and Tom Rhodes helped build the set.

The sets for productions at Church Hill Theatre have been nothing short of outstanding. And once again it’s a set that enhances without distractions to the show. There are a number of costumes changes during the show, one so quick that I wondered how it was accomplished. Barbi Bedell once again delivers a great costume design.

The Church Hill Theatre production of Jake’s Women runs through February 5, 2017 with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. CHT offers discounted rates for groups of ten or more. Call the box office at 410-556-6003 or visit the website www.churchhilltheatre.org
for details and reservations.

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