Spotlight Play Jake's Women Closes Sunday

It is 7:00 pm, and rehearsal is in full swing. An hour before, the dreaded email stating that Campion and Newman would both be in CARP beginning at 8:00 pm rang through the dining hall, sending all theater kids into motion. We just lost our leads. McManus is in a frenzy with lighting designers and electricians running through the catwalk, costume designers making last-minute adjustments, and the stand-ins desperately learning the blocking. Despite the fear and anxiety of rising covid cases, the theater has electrifying energy— a feeling of desperation. We will make this happen, and we will do it safely.  

It has been two weeks since that email. Jake's Women, a play written by Neil Simon that depicts a mentally ill writer and the relationships with the women in his life, opens Friday, March 19th. Every member of the cast and crew has worked overtime to make sure that the theater can return to Loyola safely. "Working during a pandemic was so hard. Often I was uninspired, but working with so many wonderful people has really helped push me to work harder and give everything I have," Director Emma Petruzzelli states, "Theatre is about shared human emotion and I believe the only way to do that is in person. We need to connect with people in that way to truly live the human experience."  

The play, which deals with mental health, is a humbling reminder to all involved how much the pandemic has changed the way we view the world and how much we need theater. Petruzzelli understands how vital theater and art, in general, are during a pandemic. Jake's story, according to her, feels especially potent in current times; "this story about mental health is all the more important during the pandemic because we all feel isolated right now. I don't want people to feel so alone and in sharing our art maybe it will help create mental health awareness." The play is both equally dark and comedic, as it tells the story of a mentally ill writer and the women in his life. It is a story about dealing with mental health and loving someone who struggles. Between the darkness is hidden wit and humor. It is a story that both feels dramatic and incredibly realistic all at once. Natalie Misyak, who plays Jake's sister Karen puts it perfectly; "I think one of my favorite things is how the story manages to be both comical and serious. The humor isn't cheesy or overdone, and there are great one-liners in between the deeper, more contemplative moments." The entire cast and crew appreciate how well the show deals with mental health. It bridges the gap between being too dark and too light and is instead just realism at its finest. 

 It makes it even more remarkable that the Loyola Production of Jake's Women will support mental health in Baltimore. Spotlight, the program under which Jake's Women is being operated, is a unique theater program in which students put together a play in a quick time span in order to raise money for charity. Due to Covid-19, the production spanned over the entire semester. However, the community outreach is still present; "Spotlight donates its proceeds to a non-profit organization, which we are still doing. They will go to NAMI Baltimore to help support mental health outreach." (Petruzzelli). 

In addition to dealing with mental health, the play also deals with feminism. All the female characters are strong, and while they exist in Jake's head, their characterization and energy can show through. Emma Petruzzelli states that the strong women were one of the things that drew her to the play, to begin with; "Jake's Women has some powerful women in it. Their strong energy is another thing I loved about this play. Maggie (Jake's ex-wife) specifically knows what she wants, and she doesn't let Jake stop her, she climbed the corporate ladder, and she demands what she needs out of a marriage because she won't settle for less." The feminist tone of the show extends beyond the written play and into the cast and crew. The cast is overwhelmingly female, and the girl power is palpable, both through the actual play and the community of the cast and crew; "although it is called Jake's Women, the emphasis is on the women. Love going backstage after the final scene when we all say, "Women on 3... 1, 2, 3, women!" (Misyak).  

Perhaps most special about Jake's Women, and Loyola's theater program in general, is the community. Jennifer Veith, who plays Jake's daughter, speaks lovingly about the Evergreen Player community, "The theatre program at Loyola is a beautiful, welcoming, accepting, and loving place that has helped make Loyola my home." Through thick and thin, through CARP and long rehearsals, and all, Jake's Women is a triumph of the theater community. 

 Please come and see Jake's Women, 8:00 pm Friday, March 19th, Saturday, March 20th at 8:00 pm, and at 2 pm on Sunday, March 21st. Tickets are $10 and sold at the door!