BWW Review: Benchmark's A KID LIKE JAKE genuinely examines modern parenting
I remember walking into kindergarten round-up, terrified of the new faces but comforted by a toy kitchen set, like the one I used to play with at home with my sister. This one was way nicer, though, and it was totally unoccupied. While the other kids bonded together over toys, I just wanted to be alone and prep fake food. But as soon as I approached it, I was quickly told it was off-limits for seemingly no reason, and maybe I should bond with the other boys. It wasn't until later in life that this actually made sense. Boys weren't supposed to play with that kitchen.
The topic of gender discovery in children is a hot one lately. While I was never interested in being a princess, I did love playing with my sister's Barbies, and we would always dive into my grandma's costume trunk. Until that day with the kitchen set, I could care less if certain toys were for girls.
But in 2018, drag queens are mainstream. Transgender isn't uncommon, and kids are much more comfortable expressing whatever suits them. Kids like Jake, the subject of Benchmark Theatre's current show.
A Kid Like Jake, by Daniel Pearle, is Benchmark's second-season opener. Directed by Warren Sherrill, the engaging one-act examines modern parenting and how society can pressure children out of authenticity. The play, which premiered in 2013, was recently made into a film that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Four-year-old Jake loves Cinderella, and he's about to enter kindergarten. That is, if his parents can get him into the right school. And Jake's preference to princesses isn't making their search any easier. Parents Alex (Adrian Egolf) and Greg (Antonio Amadeo) are working closely with his teacher, Judy (Martha Harmon Pardee), who's become very familiar with Jake's quirks and wants to make sure he lands in the right school. All the while, Alex and Greg are looking to expand their family, which has been complicated since a recent miscarriage. A nurse is played by Madison McKenzie Scott.
The show does a good job at bringing the perils of modern parenting to the forefront. While Jake's parents are clearly very supportive of his choices, they're also aware of the complicated path his preferences are creating. The choices in the play felt very honest, as did the performances.
While the show itself isn't very lengthy, the layers of each performance gave the production a substantial amount of depth. From natural conversations to raw arguments, the chemistry between Egolf and Amadeo was tangible. In turn, Pardee provided Jake's teacher Judy with a warm wisdom, making it difficult to fully take sides with any character.
It was refreshing to see this subject matter presented so objectively, as Benchmark continues to do by providing thought-provoking theatrics. Even as someone who isn't considering parenthood, it makes you think about the kind of choices you would make, and what you might consider normal. And it's one hell of a conversation to watch.
Benchmark Theatre presents A Kid Like Jake through March 24 at The Bench at 40 West, 1560 Teller Street in Lakewood. Tickets and info at BenchmarkTheatre.com.