'A Kid Like Jake' breaks gender stereotypes
It might be hard figuring out what’s so special about the title character in “A Kid Like Jake,” especially since the audience never gets to meet him.
The Invisible Theatre attempts to resolve this ambiguity by premiering Daniel Pearle’s play at the start of its 44th season. The story involves a 4-year-old boy named Jake who is just starting his first year of preschool in New York City. Before he can begin, however, his parents must find a private school they think is best for him.
The play opens with Alex, Jake’s mother, sitting in the living room, mulling over an essay draft she will submit in a private school application. The essay prompt is to share what makes her child special. Alex realizes that everything about her son is special.
He’s bright, inquisitive, loves fairy tales and has an interest in playing dress up with girls. The latter, although unique to Jake and perhaps a bit odd, would look good on an application, according to Judy, the family friend helping to get Jake into these private schools.
“This kind of strategizing — it’s sickening, but I think you can capitalize from it,” Judy says to Alex. “They’re looking for kids who stand out.”
However, once the interesting hobby is out for the schools to see, social conflicts start to arise. Questions emerge, such as, “Why is he acting up? When did he become so aggressive? Is he going through a phase?”
In bringing this play to the stage, the Invisible Theatre leaves the audience members to their own imaginations as to how this 4-year-old boy is handling these pressures to conform. The viewer only experiences the struggle through his two parents, whose relationship begins to unravel due to this ordeal.
Jake’s love of dress up stirs up his stubbornness — something his father insists he gets from his mother later in the play. When Halloween comes around, Jake is faced with the dilemma of choosing between a pirate or skeleton costume.
His mother and father await his choice, but the child instead asks if he can dress as Snow White. This is followed by an argument that leaves Jake revoked of his trick-or-treating privileges and results in a hurtful accusation that Jake slings at his mother.
The play consists of a four-person cast featuring Anna Augustowska, Lori Hunt, Cynthia Jeffrey and Kevin Black, who also directed the play. Black and Hunt’s performances as Jake’s parents evokes the real-life issue of gender identity crisis and the difficulty of raising a child in a politically-correct world.
It is this aspect that makes the play engaging as the parents struggle to decide what’s best for Jake. In the end, after damaging relationships and hashing out arguments, neither parent knows what to do. They opt to just sit in their living room and watch “Cinderella,” an incredibly symbolic gesture for this gritty, family drama. But there is no fairy godmother to resolve this crisis, and the characters are left with the uncertainty of what is in store for their precocious son.
“A Kid Like Jake” will run until Sept. 14. Each show starts at 7:30 p.m. with two matinee showings on Sept. 13 and 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $30.