Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
IAMA Theatre Company’s West Coast Premiere of Daniel Pearle’s A Kid Like Jake has arrived at the perfect time. Or, rather, it has been wisely remounted at the perfect time.
New York City couple Alex and Greg (Sarah Utterback and Tim Peper) are trying to get their five-year-old son Jake into a well-respected school. They don’t have the money for it so they’re relying on a scholarship for which they must write an essay detailing why Jake would be perfect for the school. Jake’s former teacher Judy (Sharon Lawrence) suggests mentioning Jake’s sense of gender fluidity – he enjoys dressing up as princesses and playing as a girl. This is news to his parents and so begins a collision of opinions about how to deal with Jake’s tendencies. Is this simply who he is and he should be supported no matter what? Should he see a therapist? Will he simply grow out of it? As the months go by, it becomes clear that something is happening with Jake – but how should his parents deal with it?
Well-written and well-acted, A Kid Like Jake may very well straddle a line where, if an audience member has an already-processed opinion that kids grow out of these things and it would be silly to indulge the child, they may be upset about the scenario and side with the mother, who wants to leave the issue alone and focus on Jake’s future by getting him into the school. His father and teacher are concerned about how Jake is changing right now and how this issue will seriously affect his future. It seemed very clear from the outset that Alex needs to learn how to change; that she is the problem.
The play didn’t leave me wondering about her point of view and whether it could be the right one – it seemed to have it’s own point of view and isn’t interested in giving the audience the option of mulling the issue over – Alex isn’t very sympathetic, she bullies Greg and Judy, and we are led to believe that, well, maybe it’s hormones. This is one of several weak plot points added to make the main character more sympathetic. It doesn’t work.
The design elements by DeAnne Millaius (set), Ginevra Lombardo (lights) and Heath Harper (props) are wonderful and the direction by Jennifer Chambers is spot-on. The actors are also top-notch and the production itself is excellent.
Photo above by Adam Shapiro: Tim Peper, Sharon Lawrence, Sarah Utterback
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