Jake's Women is a 1992 play by Neil Simon. The play centers on Jake, a writer with a struggling marriage. Jake talks to many of the women he knows, both in real life and in his imagination, as he works to save his marriage. Jake, suffering with psychosis and seeing representations of his daughter at age 12, his late wife Julie and recently divorced wife Maggie, is dealing with the inability to write productively and must resolve these issues before he does so.
|Written by||Neil Simon|
|Date premiered||March 24, 1992|
|Place premiered||Old Globe Theatre (San Diego, California)|
|Setting||New York in the 1980s|
Jake's Women opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater on March 24, 1992 and closed on October 25, 1992 after 245 performances and 14 previews. Directed by Gene Saks, the cast featured Alan Alda (Jake), Helen Shaver (Maggie), Brenda Vaccaro (Karen), Kate Burton (Julie), Joyce Van Patten (Edith), Tracy Pollan (Molly at 21), and Talia Balsam (Sheila). The sets and costumes were by Santo Loquasto and the lighting by Tharon Musser.
Jake's Women premiered at the Old Globe Theatre (San Diego, California) in March 1990, running through April, starring Peter Coyote with direction by Jack O'Brien. According to Simon, after that production closed he re-wrote "70 percent", and the role of Jake was re-cast with Alan Alda with a new director, Gene Saks. The role of Jake was re-written, according to Simon: "Jake used to just react to the other people...now he's the centerpiece."
Prior to its Broadway opening, Jake's Women was staged at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem as part of the North Carolina School of the Arts Broadway Preview Series. The show, starring Alan Alda, had 19 sold-out performances.
In 2016 Jake's Women was staged at Beit Zvi Theatre in Ramat Gan, Israel.
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Act One: Jake is a successful writer living in New York in 1990. His marriage to wife Maggie is beginning to fall apart. We begin by seeing Jake on stage typing, then, interrupted by a phone call he gets into an argument with sister Karen about meeting up on Saturday night for dinner. After hanging up, an imaginary Maggie 'appears', stating he's always working and he's so busy she doesn't even know why he thought of her. Jake then persuades her to act out the scene in which they met eight years ago at a July fourth party. Maggie plays along for a bit before interrupting the fantasy, stating that the past is not helping them get through the future. Jake expresses his disappointment, and Maggie leaves.
Jake then confides in the audience in how his marriage is in trouble, before calling on his sister Karen to help him. Karen 'appears' and expresses her irritation at his calling her while she was watching The Godfather I, II and III. Jake explains that he and Maggie are in trouble, and he believes that she has been having an affair with a new man in her office. Karen aggravates him into admitting he had an affair with an actress a year ago before explaining he loves Maggie more than ever and would do anything to keep her. Maggie then arrives home and has just started upstairs for a shower when Jake explains he wishes to speak to her before dinner. Maggie goes to the bathroom, and Karen warns him not to cause trouble for him. She then leaves.
Maggie enters and begins to fix herself a drink, and Jake explains that they are going to dinner with Karen on Saturday before Maggie interrupts, stating she has to go to Philadelphia on Saturday. This then leads to an argument between the two, leading Jake to ask, "Do you want out of this marriage?" Stunned, Maggie expresses her wish to stay with him before another argument ensues, with Maggie telling Jake he is controlling and spends more time on his work than with her. She then proposes that they separate for six months to give them some breathing space. As Maggie begins to leave the room, Jake asks her if 'Michael Jaffe' has anything to do with the separation. He interrogates Maggie until she admits she has slept with Michael, but it wasn't an affair because "it stopped as soon as it started." Maggie then leaves the room.
As Jake is sitting there miserably, his daughter Molly, age twelve, "appears" and begins to talk to him. When asking him if he and Maggie are separating because they both had an affair, Jake violently expresses his reluctance to discuss such matters with a young girl, stating that if she were older, he would discuss it. Younger Molly then agrees, exits, and is replaced by Molly at age twenty one. Older Molly tells her father that the problems between him and Maggie are caused by Julie, Jake's late wife and Molly's mother. Molly then persuades Jake to talk to his psychiatrist in his mind, stating it'll give him complete control - his favourite thing in life. Jake agrees and Molly exits.
Edith, Jake's psychiatrist then enters, mocking Jake and his problems. She taunts him and gives seemingly useless advice, stating that he "likes to deprive himself." Eventually, she coerces him into saying what he wants the most, which he says is Julie. Julie then appears, at age twenty one, doing a crossword puzzle and asking Jake for the answers. An ice cream truck is then heard and Julie exits.
Jake then continues to talk to Edith, getting angrier and angrier at her as she continuously taunts and mocks him. Maggie then enters and Jake fixes her a drink, Edith 'fades out' while telling Jake that he always has options and to listen to his wife. Jake and Maggie then launch into a discussion of how Maggie can't seem to stop "running." She explains that she needs time for herself, and after six months they will see if things are any better. Jake scornfully remarks that "you can't keep what you give up," and Maggie tells him that Jake never let Julie go, despite her death. We find out that Maggie has been pregnant several times, but evidently has had miscarriages. Maggie then exits.
Jake confides in the audience that he has tried to let Julie go, and she is always "bursting in on him." Julie, age twenty one then appears, yelling angrily and demanding to know where he has been. Jake is confused until Julie states that they have slept together the previous night. Jake explains to her that it wasn't a late night, and it was twenty-nine years ago. Julie begins to understand that time has passed before stating, "last night was wonderful." Jake then explains to her that they could never be together as they once were, and Julie, horrified, asks him if he is dead.
Jake calls on Karen to help him explain to Julie her death. Then Julie expresses her relief, telling Jake, "I hate it when somebody I love dies." Julie then expresses her irritation at the fact that Jake only calls her when he's in trouble. Edith appears and she and Karen help support Julie's argument. Julie asks Jake to make her thirty-six, but when he tells her he can't, she begins to fade out in annoyance. Jake finally tells her that she never was thirty-six, that she died in a car accident when she was thirty-five while taking Molly up to camp. Edith and Karen leave. At first, Julie is confused as to who Molly is but then realizes she has a daughter. After Jake shows her a photo Julie expresses her wish to see Molly, asking Jake to summon her up. Jake refuses, but eventually agrees to let Molly and Julie meet on Julie's "birthday." Molly calls and Jake speaks to her, with Julie exiting.
Jake hangs up and tells the audience how Molly is the only human he ever trusted. He then reminisces about the time when Molly and Maggie met eight years ago. A younger Maggie then enters expressing her apologies for being late. She and Jake then chat about going out to dinner before Maggie kisses him just as Molly enters. Molly and Maggie exchange greetings and Maggie hands her a present, which turns out to be an out of date World Atlas. Maggie, embarrassed, admits she grabbed it without looking. Molly then exits, to turn off her TV, and Maggie expresses her joy. She then leaves to the bathroom. Molly enters and tells Jake that he and Maggie should marry straight away. A phone is then heard and Molly leaves.
Present Maggie enters and states she is staying at the beach house. She then exits the apartment. Jake gloomily sits on the couch before both Mollys, age twelve and twenty one, appear and sit with him. They try to play a game but it ends up relating back to Maggie, so they simply sit.
Act Two: Begins with Jake, once again, seated at his computer typing. Maggie enters seductively and expresses her wish to be with him again, before laughing in his face. It is realized that Maggie is only a hallucination and she leaves. Jake confides in the audience on how his imaginary women are appearing without his summons, before Karen enters, asking to speak with him.
Karen and Jake get into an argument over his relationships and it is found that he has had several relationships in the six months that Maggie has been gone. He is currently with a woman named Shelia. Edith arrives and together, she and Karen irritate him. Jake realizes they are "really there" and calls Edith in order to help get rid of the hallucinations. Karen and Edith then leave. Jake tells the audience he never called Edith—that it was a trick to get rid of Karen and Edith in his head.
The doorbell rings and Shelia enters. She and Jake have a strange conversation in which Jake's insanity starts to become clear. Maggie then appears and begins to mock Jake from behind Shelia's back. Jake grows angry with Maggie, frequently shouting at her, with Shelia (who cannot see Maggie) growing frightened. She eventually runs out of the house screaming.
After an Imaginary reunion between Julie and Molly, the real Maggie returns to talk with Jake. She informs him that she has dinner plans with someone and that she believes that person is going to propose, leading to an argument between Jake and Maggie, and eventually Maggie's departure.
Suddenly, Jake hears the voice of his late mother. She informs him of her forgiveness and love of him and then disappears. Then all of the other imaginary characters reappear and say goodbye to Jake. The real Maggie then enters and announces that she canceled the dinner date. She wants to work things out with Jake. Jake walks towards her and they reach out towards each other like The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. The lights fade to black.
In 1996, the play was made into a TV movie starring Alan Alda with direction by Glenn Jordan. Both Alda and Van Patten were brought in from the original cast to reprise respectively the roles of Jake and Edith.
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- Jake's Women Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 14, 2012
- Churnin, Nancy. "Rewritten 'Jake's Women' Back on Broadway Track" Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1991
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- Jake's Women .tcm.com, accessed April 13, 2012