…with wonderful memories of what was so much more than just a Jake Gyllenhaal encounter (I’ve had a few, actually) but of a much wider and amazing experience. Mind you, to have Jake in your personal space, and more than once, is almost surreal and a crazy experience by itself but seriously, it was way more than just that.
Jake What I brought home with me is the confirmation – which honestly I didn’t need, but still – that Jake is a truly gifted, impressive, stunning, terrific actor. And we might already have gathered that from all his performances in films but it’s on stage that you can really test an actor bravura and Jake is undeniably superb. The unanimous praise he’s getting is deserved and then some. From the moment that he bursts into the stage Terry grabs your emotional attention and doesn’t let go, by never standing still he gives the play a rhythm that gets more dramatic as the plot unfolds, he’s like a hurricane that hits an apparently tranquil shore that would never be the same after its passage and to do so he makes use of not only animated conversations uttered in a flawless British accent but also of his restless body. His performance throughout the whole play is impeccable and I truly wish we’ll get to see him on stage again because Jake Gyllenhaal on stage is nothing like Jake Gyllenhaal in the movies and if this weren’t an off-Broadway play I could very well see a Tony Award among Jake’s talent many acknowledgments.
The play. Thinking back to all the reviews I’ve read about it I have to say that some of the tepid ones had a point, in that the play at times lacks of balance. There are indeed four characters on stage but it’s apparent that the play revolves around Terry and Anna’s developing relationship, so much so that when Terry leaves the stage for 15 minutes towards the end of the play the dialogue between George and Fiona gets somewhat flat. It’s not the actors’ fault though, and this is where you realize that the play fails to keep an equilibrium: when the disheveled, scruffy, fidgeting, foul-mouthed and ultimately inconclusive Terry leaves the stage it feels like watching a balloon that slowly deflated. But apart from that, the play is entertaining, thought-provoking, utterly enjoyable and absolutely worth to be seen.
Annie Funke This talented young actress is very brave. I have never had weight problems but I got bullied at school for other reasons and it’s not something that I would ever want to relive and for her to do that day after day, stripping herself almost naked in front of the audience before the pivotal, extremely touching and disturbing scene of the suicide attempt in the tub (amazingly portrayed) well, that’s gutsy. And that’s why I asked her for an autograph, cause this way I would be able to tell her how terrific she was. Which I did, and she seemed very grateful for that.
Brian O’Byrne and Michelle Gomez As I said, it’s not their fault if they don’t get to fully express their talent, which is undoubtedly there. Also, there are long moments in the play where they just sit in the dark while Terry and Anna take the stage but when the focus is back on them they struggle to keep up with the uncle and niece pace. And that’s just too bad because I believe that with a few brush strokes here and there the final painting would have been just perfect.
October 14 I saw the play the first time on Sunday the 14th, a matinée with a scheduled after-show discussion with the actors that was attended that day by Brian and Annie. The first thing I noticed was that the average age of the audience was probably 70, and I was kind of worried cause I thought that maybe older people would have felt uncomfortable with the swearing or the delicate topic of Anna’s crush on her uncle. But from what I managed to eavesdrop at the end of the play they were all positively impressed. There were obviously many youngsters too, mostly Jake fans. The after-show conversation with Brian and Annie was very interesting, most of the audience’s questions referred to the symbolism of the water (someone went even as far as calling it the ‘fifth character of the play’, which I agree upon).
October 17 Since I knew that Jake usually leaves the theater immediately after the play when it’s the matinée and doesn’t stay for the back-door fans, I decided to go back and try my luck again the next Wednesday. I got there an hour before the end of the evening show and stood by the barrier for my first stage-door experience.
Jake was in a good mood, he smiled a lot, took pictures with everyone, signed whatever was put under his nose.
…and even if I was saying to him ‘Don’t ever shave’ when I was handing him the photo. Anyway, he chuckled at that. I did, too when I realized I had actually uttered those words.
October 20 I went to see the play again the next Saturday, another matinée with after-show Q&A. I arrived at the theater ahead of time and I was enjoying a cappuccino sitting on the round bench when I saw Michelle Gomez approaching and entering the theater from the main door, followed a few minutes later by Brian. I thought Jake would get inside the theater from the back so I was really surprised when I looked up and saw him walk right by me just like Michelle and Brian just did, nonchalantly, with his inseparable backpack and Yankee hat. I just watched him walk by, we shared a brief glance, and inside he went. Pretty surreal.
After the play, in which Jake’s performance and the whole ensemble were even more striking, Jake stayed for the talk-back for the first time, along with Brian and Annie. If you know Jake a little, you know that he’s a funny guy. In person, he’s even funnier and more charming, if at all possible. Not to mention jaw-dropping gorgeous. Sorry, I’m digressing.
I was glad that the audience wasn’t focused solely on him, and that Brian and Annie got to reply to many questions. The chemistry among the three of them was clear, they were all very relaxed and paid close attention to the questions they were being asked. As an account of the discussion that followed would obviously contain spoilers, I’ve decided to not post it here, but if you want a more thorough report of it here’s the link to the comments section of GyllenBabble’s website (whom I had the pleasure to meet that day), where you can fulfill your curiosity.
At the end of the play I got outside and after a short while Jake exited the theater, but he just waved and smiled and then scurried away.
Saturday means double performance so I took a stroll around the area, had a late lunch with friends and came back to the theater to resume my place at the barricades for the chance of a few more pictures and another autograph, which I got. Again, he took pictures with everyone and signed autographs with a smile on his face. You could tell that he’s getting good at this back-door fans thing and I believe that he’s enjoying it a lot.
I’m not in any of the pictures above, in the remote case that anyone was wondering.
Anyway, as I’m sure you can imagine, I’m a little behind on Jake’s news but I’ll hopefully be able to resume my regular posting schedule in a couple of days.
Whoa, this was an awful long post, sorry for that.