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'Women' keeps 'em laughing

Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.

The heated debates between the couple are hilarious.
While Neil Simon's play, & quot;Jake's Women, & quot; is notorious for receiving mediocre reviews from critics, Friday night's debut at the New Castle Playhouse Annex had the audience captivated throughout the performance.
Under the direction of Kenneth Cole, the actors had the sold-out crowd laughing and crying simultaneously while their eyes were glued to the stage, anticipating what may happen next.
Jay Smith of East Liverpool made his NCP debut as the lead role of Jake. Smith did an excellent job of portraying the character that some critics say was written about Simon himself. Smith was realistic in the part, and had the audience believing real-life situations were coming to life on the stage.
& quot;Jake's Women & quot; is set in Jake's apartment in Soho, N.Y. Jake, a playwright, can be described as a man who loves to have women in love with him, but is afraid of commitment. After his 8-year marriage to Maggie, played by Maura Fornataro, starts to go sour, Jake calls upon various women in his life to help him out.
Unfortunately for Jake, most of these women visit him only in his mind. He fantasizes hilarious conversations with these women to help him justify his denials and hardships, blaming his family life, particularly his parents for them.
His visitors include his loud-mouthed, very opinionated sister, Karen; his realist therapist, Edith; his dead wife whom he is still in love with, Julie; and his daughter at ages 12 and 21, Molly.
Even though the romantic chemistry between Smith and Fornataro was average at best, the two of them excelled in heated debates concerning their relationship.
The laugh-until-you-cry scenes happened mostly between Smith and Erica Stickel, who played Karen. Viewers could wholeheartedly relate to this relationship because it was the traditional love-hate relationship that many brothers and sisters have for one another.
After many fictional conversations with these women, and dating a few others, Jake soon realizes that his fantasies cannot help him overcome reality, and that he can no longer dwell on Julie's death. The play ends with an expected, yet unrealistic reunion with Maggie after a six-month separation.
Simon wrote this play in 1992 as a gift for his daughter, Nancy, after she told him she wished she could spend just one more day with her deceased mother. Most of the other women who visited him in the play were based on real-life people who made a large impact on his life.

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