Jay Jacobson gives a touching performance from his original one-man play titled Mental Creatures. He unites his acting talent with thoughtful writing to create a witty, yet moving experience.
Although Jacobsen portrays nine people in total, the play focuses on three main characters all struggling to overcome their internal woes. Frank is an elderly man broken-hearted by the loss of his wife and laments how his age has forced him to move into a retirement home. As he clears out his house he becomes distressed that he can’t find a picture of him and his late wife from when they were young and happy. His attitude worsens as he involuntary discards more memories from his past until he meets a happy-go-lucky retiree at his new residence.
Sylvia is an ageing anxious woman who is carrying a heavy burden of regret over her decision to give up dancing for her husband who died soon after their marriage. She has decided she has wasted her life for too many years and wants to try and find someone to spend her life with. Unfortunately all the men she finds are either too awkward or flake out on her leaving her to exclaim, “Is this dating? I’d rather become a nun.” Luckily she has a faithful friend with whom she can rely on for comfort and who is always able to rekindle Sylvia’s hope.
Jesse is a painter in anguish over the fact that people admire him more for his framing skills rather than his artistic ones. His thoughts about life and art reveal a complicated soul seeking passionate self-expression. After his art is rejected from many local galleries he despairs that when he sees a tree he can no longer feel it fully like he used to. He says the way he sees the tree is like how he sees himself, like “dismembered pieces that don’t fit together.” However, after he comes to the realization that his painting were based more on what he thought other people desired to see rather than what he desired to paint his paintings improve and his new work is accepted into an art show.
Jacobson also breaks out into song between certain scenes. They aren’t dazzling numbers but they aren’t meant to be. They provide a nice backdrop to the story with lyrics that reinforce Jacobsen’s themes in the play. Their content advises us that we should let go of the past and that life is to be appreciated rather than scorned. However, I wouldn’t say Jacobsen is saying if we do these things than life will be perfect and dandy, but that we simply (as Jesse puts it) “need to feel all the feelings.” Then at least we aren’t resisting what is real.
The amazing thing about Jacobson’s play is its ability to affect the audience. My uncle with whom I attended the play said to me, “I will never forget that performance for the rest of my life.” And, during a tender scene where Jacobsen was acting as Frank, a woman in front of us burst into tears for minutes. I know there were a few scenes where I had the sensation of my heart stirring with sympathy for Jacobsen’s anguished characters. I think it is Jacobson’s willingness to honestly confront the sorrows in life that gives his play its emotionally tender quality. A lot of entertainment I see either portrays drama with bells and whistles or creates stereotypical characters that we plaster generic feelings onto. Jacobsen delves deeper producing characters that are fresh, subtle and intimate; thereby achieving the capability to touch many people’s hearts and minds.
This play offers an all-encompassing experience. You will be touched by the depth of the characters, laugh at Jacobsen’s entertaining talent, be asked to consider the sincerity of play’s message, and, you get to listen to a little music too.
The play is written and performed by Jay Jacobson. Directed by Randy Brenner and the consulting producer is Racquel Lehrman. The play is running at the Lounge Theatre #2 from July 13th until August 18thth Thurs thru Sat at 8p.m. The theater is located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038. Tickets are $20. To reserve tickets call (323) 960-7738 or buy them online at www.Plays411.com/mentalcreatures.com
Photo Credit: Kedar Lawrence.