IF YOU GO
What: Neil Simon play about a neurotic writer and a SoHo apartment full of real and imaginary women
When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through Nov. 22
Where: Marco Players Theater, 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island
Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com
Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall directly across from the Crazy Flamingo Restaurant.
Issues. Everybody has issues - particularly in a Neil Simon play. "Jake's Women," leading off the Marco Players' season, is no different. Fortunately, Eric Stumpf, playing the titular Jake - with his collection of neuroses, anxieties and yes, women - makes the play an interesting, if somewhat bumpy ride.
"Jake's Women" dates to 1992, sandwiched between "Lost In Yonkers" and "The Goodbye Girl" in the Simon canon and contains themes (coming of age, marriage, trust, forgiveness) present in many of his works. Over the course of two hours, Jake hallucinates women from throughout his life and imagination as he tries to figure out just how to save his failing marriage and jolt his creativity.
Stumpf is the main reason the production works. He's on stage for the entire show, whether trying to tease out a monologue or interact with any of the various femme fatales (real or fantasy) he's calling up. Stumpf has the sheen of insanity necessary for the part but enough genuine humanity to move the piece past its "writer on the edge of a nervous breakdown" obviousness and toward the "forgiveness shall set you free" meme that Jake keeps stumbling toward and missing for most of two hours.
Despite being a play about a man with issues, one of the best scenes comes courtesy the female cast. Lisa Lang (Maggie) and Kathy O'Brien (Sheila) square off in a duel between imaginary wife and replacement girlfriend that would do the WWE proud - although I thought O'Brien's skin-tight scarlet dress was ripe for a wardrobe malfunction during the entire scene. Judy Daye also has some choice bon mots as Jake's psychiatrist, Edith (and those fishnets!).
The white on black set design from Beverly Dahlstrom and Donna Blankman is intriguing, although I'd have followed it up with vivid monochrome costumes to heighten the effect, especially on the small set. Lighting effects meant to signal the arrival and departure of real people vs. apparitions also appear slightly out of sync, adding an unintended air of mystery to the comings and goings.
"Jake's Women" is an interesting peek inside the mind of a writer. There's pop psychology, fishnet stockings and imaginary women floating around the stage at all times - plus a grown man with mommy issues. One thing's for sure - you won't be bored.