by Joel Elkins~
Mental Creatures, finishing up its world premiere at the Lounge Theatre this weekend, is a flawed but at times riveting portrayal of the most foundational and raw human emotions. Randy Brenner directed and Jay Jacobson wrote and stars in this one-man show exploring human experience through the life crises of three separate individuals.
Jesse, an aspiring painter working at a framing store to pay his bills, is struggling through an extended “blue” period, reexamining with each artistic disappointment the pestering question of how much more time to devote to his art before surrendering to the world of nine-to-five drudgery simply framing the work of others.
On the opposite side of the coin is Sylvia, a mature divorcee, who struggles with her decision years ago to give up dancing in order to marry her late husband, wondering what might have been and whether it can ever be again.
And further down the life cycle spectrum, Frank struggles to maintain some remnants from his life, the best of which, he realizes, is far behind him, as he is forced to move into what is deceptively called a “home,” but he knows will be where he will most likely die.
The thoughts and feelings that haunt these three individuals have been shared by everyone who has ever stepped foot on this planet: Am I too old for happiness? For love? Did I give up on my dreams? Am I holding on to a pipe dream? Am I good enough? It’s hard not to identify with what they are going through, precisely because the themes are so universal, yet rarely expressed in public.
Jacobsen does a good job — both as a playwright and performer — changing between the characters, adapting the manner of speech and thought to the person. Sylvia is, by far, the most fleshed out and easily identifiable of the three. Her personality is the most engaging and her scenes of pain and disappointment pull at the heartstrings, where, by contrast, those of the other two at times can drag.
Also, the original songs which Jacobson wrote and performs throughout the performance, like Jerry Springer’s “final thoughts,” are for the most part superfluous but do help frame the action, giving us some idea what message we, the audience, are supposed to be deriving from the anguish we are observing. As implied by the title of the play, this message is: humans obsess too much. Or, in the words of the final song, we “think our lives away.” These negative thoughts don’t benefit anyone and only serve to distract us from the present. Only by letting go of the past and focusing on the present does the future open up. Each of the three characters realizes this in the end, in their own ways.
Mental Creatures plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through August 18, 2012
The Lounge Theatre is located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. (one block east of Vine) in Hollywood
Ticket prices: $20.00
Reservations online at www.Plays411.com/mantalcreatures, or by calling (323) 960-7738