We've all done it. Imagined circumstances with certain people, putting our words and thoughts into their mouths to elicit certain emotions, or just to make ourselves feel better.
This is Jake's problem in Neil Simon's Jake's Women, a play being presented at the cozy (and well-decorated) Studio Theatre in Lindenhurst, Long Island until November 12.
Add that to a growing list of Jake's issues: detachment, lack of intimacy, his need for control, living more in the world of his writing than the living and breathing one around him - or what's left of it, anyway.
Scott Hofer as Jake delivers a heartfelt and multi-layered performance as he maneuvers between a separation with his second wife, Maggie (Lesley Wade), and the growing population of imaginary women in his living room - Julie, his deceased first wife at 21 (Marteena Morano); his daughter, Mollie, both present age (Georgie Berny) and at 12 years old (Grace M. O'Neill); his sister, Karen (Cathy Russo); and his shrink, Edith (Constance I. Moore).
While Jake's Women is dubbed a comedy in the theater's program, it plays more like a drama with bursts of comedy throughout. Jake befriends the audience as he continually breaks the fourth wall and confides more and more of his insecurities and fears to those watching.
It's heavy material and Jake's gal pals work as a great device to bring something fresh and upbeat to the stage. Edith (Moore) is a constant scene stealer; despite Julie's knowledge of her early demise, Morano does an upstanding job of portraying her as a bright, bubbly and honest character. Act Two brings some wonderful comedic moments especially during a particular scene where Jake is arguing with his real-life date, Sheila (Linda May), and the Maggie in his head (who is also in the room, expertly miming Sheila).
Most touching and poignant was a scene late in Act 2 between Julie and the older Mollie (a natural chemistry between the two) -- a moment that only occurs because Jake wills it into existence. The moment is so real, and so heartbreaking, it brought this reviewer to tears.
Neil Simon has a way of creating a play that is the true representation of the ups and downs that culminate into everyday life. Director Carol Prisamt has admirably translated Jake's Women onto Studio Theatre's stage backed by an impressive cast that is able to dig into the realities (and fantasies) of life with sincerity and spirit.
Jake's Women is playing at the Studio Theatre in Lindenhurst, Long Island on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30 until Sunday, November 12. For tickets, direction, and more information, please visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.