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A Kid Like Jake: plot synopsis
Carla Gugino and Peter Grosz play New York City parents trying to find the right school for their gender-nonconformist four-year-old in a new play by Daniel Pearle, directed by Evan Cabnet for Lincoln Center's LCT3 division.
A Kid Like Jake: theater review by Adam Feldman
A bright and imaginative four-year-old, Jake is on the brink of “transitioning” to kindergarten, and his mother, Alex (Gugino), is bent on securing a slot at one of New York’s dozen most exclusive private schools. But she is reluctant to deal with one key aspect of his emerging personality: that he likes to play with dolls and dress up like a princess. Judy (Aaron), an expert at navigating the application process, advises her to highlight Jake’s “gender-variant play” as a selling point, but Alex worries about defining her son’s identity so early. And Jake, with the inconvenient timing of the very young, has begun misbehaving in classroom and play situations. Protogay or not, why is he acting out?
Daniel Pearle’s A Kid Like Jake is a searching, keenly perceptive look at how the nature-versus-nurture question can play out on the front lines of tolerance today. It is essentially Alex’s story (Jake never appears onstage), and Gugino plays her with a fierce will colored with fear of losing control—or of never having had it to begin with. In Evan Cabnet’s skillfully acted, quietly absorbing production for LCT3, the greatest pleasures are in the details: the exactness of Pearle’s dialogue, the slow boil of denial and resentment, the thin fissures between Alex and her therapist husband, Greg (Grosz). A Kid Like Jake makes a late push against the constraints of straight naturalism, and one may wish that it went wider earlier. But if the piece doesn’t burst out of its issue-play limits, it echoes resonantly within them.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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