If The Glass Slipper Fits

If The Glass Slipper Fits

‘A Kid Like Jake’ looks at love, parenting and gender identity


NWA Democrat-Gazette

Jake is 4 years old, about to make the transition from preschool to kindergarten. His biggest worry should be what to take in his lunchbox, right?

But the situation in “A Kid Like Jake” is more complicated for him — and for his parents, Alex, a stay-at-home mom, and Greg, a therapist. They want to get him into one of New York’s highly competitive private schools with names like Dalton and Calhoun, and that means essays written by Alex to sell how smart, artistic, intuitive, mature and special Jake is and how unique, progressive and supportive they are as parents. It also means school visits for Jake, where he is shaken out of his safe and insular environment.

Jake, you see, isn’t into trucks or superheroes. His favorite toys are Disney princesses — Cinderella, in particular — and he’d rather wear a tiny ball gown than a cape.

The crux of the drama opening May 3 at Arkansas Public Theatre is described this way by New York Times critic Charles Isherwood:

“Will indulging his fantasies cause more harm in the long run? Are parents like Alex and Greg, educated and intelligent and forward-thinking when it comes to matters of sexuality, really entirely at ease with the possibility that their son may be homosexual, or possibly even transgender? … While Alex is happy to indulge her son’s affinities at home, she feels a prickly unease at the idea of exposing them to public scrutiny. Lurking underneath the love and desire to protect him is perhaps more than a little secret wishing that Cinderella will one day be replaced by a more traditional role model.”

“The parents are good people and good parents,” says APT director Brenda Nemec. “They may be a bit misguided, but over all, everyone in the [story] is working toward the same goal. They all want Jake to be a happy, educated child. They want Jake to be ‘normal,’ but what is normal? I think it is a question for everyone. They feel like they are progressive, liberal parents, but they have never encountered a boy that wants to dress like Cinderella.”

Nemec, a veteran director at APT, says she didn’t know the show, but “once I read the script, I was excited to bring it to the stage. There are several challenging themes throughout the show that I hope we are able to execute.”

“I think this show is so pertinent,” agrees Sarah Mouritsen, who portrays Alex. “So many parents really struggle with being able to accept their children for who they are. Mother knows best, right?!”

Alex, says Mouritsen, is “a mother who really wants the best for her son and will fight fiercely for him. I don’t think she is a ‘bad’ person. I do think that when it comes to her son she does have a sort of blind spot, and she’s not so open minded to anyone else’s input about what is best for him. I think the audience will either love me or hate me for that very reason. I mean, everyone has his or her own parenting method, and it might hit a nerve with some people while others will be saying ‘amen!’”

“Greg is a good person at heart,” adds Charles Riedmueller, who plays the dad. “In fact, one of my favorite things about Daniel Pearle’s script is that no one is wrong and no one is the ‘bad guy’; the characters are only speaking their own, equally valid truths. Like the proverbial blind men describing an elephant, each contributes descriptions from their own unique perspectives.”

“I think audiences will have their own opinions about what’s best for Jake,” Mouritsen concludes. “So, I really think this will leave audiences thinking about how they would have acted if they were in the same position as Greg and Alex.”

“I hope they all leave with a broader understanding of people and situations that may be different from them,” adds Nemec. “I think we all must learn to love unconditionally. We all have those things that make unique. Embrace those things in yourself and look for those things in others.”


‘A Kid Like Jake’

WHEN — 8 p.m. May 3-4; 2 p.m. May 5; again May 9-12

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers

COST — $22-$29

INFO — 631-8988

FYI — This production contains adult language and content and is recommended for mature audiences.

Categories: Theater