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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.


Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal
OfCenter Productions   January 2022

Thirty-something Jewish writer-performer Melissa Center plays a thirty-something Jewish writer-performer named Melissa Center in this inventive, frequently witty, occasionally sad and always watchable solo show.

As is her right and duty the fictional Melissa's nice Jewish mother takes every opportunity to encourage her nice Jewish daughter to find a nice Jewish man and give her grandchildren already. When her nudging takes the form of sending Melissa a newspaper clipping mentioning that nice half-Jewish Jake Gyllenhaal is single, the daughter rebels.

But a string of coincidences one friend mentions living around the corner from Jake's father, another bumps into the actor while shopping, another auditions for a role in a film with him seem to signal that the fates are pushing her toward him.

Soon she too is collecting newspaper clippings, attending events because he will be there, sending him gushy fan mail, even hanging around outside his Tribeca apartment in hopes of seeing him.

Will Melissa ever meet Jake? Will he read her letter? Will they marry and live happily ever after?

Spoiler alert: at least one of those things will not happen, but the play allows Melissa and the audience an alternative and satisfying resolution.

Along the way we watch Melissa's misadventures in the dating game, simultaneously funny and sad enough to help us understand the attractions of fantasy. There are a few songs (music by Jamie Buxton), ranging from a bit of deliberately silly hip-hop autobiography to a rather sweet love ballad.

Performer Melissa Center brings undoubted authenticity to the role of Melissa, but I suspect that other actresses could do just as well. The piece's strengths lie in the writing more than the acting.

Some bits of this show might make you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me On A Sunday, also about a woman defining herself in terms of men, while the character's attractive quirkiness recalls Phoebe Waller Bridge's Fleabag.

But Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal has its own wit and insight, and this performance recording makes for an entertaining 80 minutes.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal - online 2022