Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler
After a delay, The Fenton Village Players opened its production of Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women with a strong performance Thursday.
The delay occurred when the lead, Steve Shelton, had to have major surgery a week before the originally scheduled opening. Judging by Shelton’s performance Thursday, one would have never suspected he’d just had major surgery.
Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women is about a writer who is afraid to make a commitment to a woman especially after the tragic death of his first wife. Jake is a writer who needs to control everything. The writer is always at work. He conjures up various women who plague him. His second wife decides to move out because he can’t let go or trust women. But the women of his life appear because he conjures them up, and once here, he cannot always control them making for an extremely funny play. Judging by the audience on opening night, it was quite successful.
As Jake, Shelton is the writer. He was on fire from beginning to end playing the emotional rollercoaster with great precision and ease. More than up to the task, Shelton ranted and raved, cajoled and pontificated, stomped and stormed his way through the entire play. His energy was infectious. (I have seen Steve in other productions and he is always good, but he surpassed those Thursday.)
The show’s actresses were equal to the task and kept up with him at every turn. They came and went without problems. The play was seamless and the cast had good chemistry on stage.
As Maggie, Carla Feamster played Jake’s “real wife. She gave a strong performance dealing with all of the emotional turns with ease. These two were a good match for the couple. The last scene between Maggie and Jake was beautifully done.
Sara Sanger played Karen, the writer’s sister. He would conjure her up whenever he was in trouble. Sanger was very versatile on stage. Her one long monologue in the 1st act was beautifully presented. She brought energy and mirth to the stage.
As Edith, the writer’s shrink, Karen Craner was a hoot on stage. Her one-liners and comebacks were extremely well done. She brought energy and a sense of humor to the stage. Craner and Sanger were quite the pair that Jake could never control once he brought them out. The scene with these two standing on the landing eating popcorn and commenting on the argument between Maggie and Jake was great.
Ashley Cremonte plays Julie, Jake’s first wife. He always brings her back at the age of 21. In the midst of all that chaos on stage, she brought a different perspective. She was more than equal to the task. The scene between Ashley and the older Molly was wonderfully done.
Two women play Jake’s daughter, Molly. Gwen Feamster is Molly at 12 and Maggie Hodgkin plays her at 21. Both gave good performances.
Kate Rundell played Sheila, one of Jake’s girlfriends. She wants more of a relationship, and he doesn’t commit. Sheila gets caught in the crossfire between Jake and his conjured wife. She can’t see the wife of course, and what happens as a result is hysterical. Rundell gave a good performance and played the scene very well.
Jake’s Women moved smoothly, and, even though it is long, it never bogged down. The cast performed with great energy and precision.
Director Mary Powers deserves kudos for a good production in spite of the problems. The set had black walls and strange picture frames. The floor design represented the convoluted nature of the play. Conjured up women cleverly came through various sheltered openings in the walls and not through the door.
I strongly recommend this production. You can’t go wrong if you attend a performance.
Jake’s Women continues with performances on 10/24, 25, 26, 31, 11/1 & 2. The Fenton Village Playhouse is located at 14197 Torrey Rd., Fenton MI 48430-0531. For Tickets call 810-750-7700.