Dear Jane, by Joan Beber, is a never-ending sketch session of what seems more like Julie’s therapy sessions than Jane’s. Skipping around in time, you do not even have the years to count down your escape.
We are brought into the rehearsals of a play, but what we see are glimpses of Julie’s (Jenny Piersol) abandonment from her twin sister Jane (Amanda Rose), an assault while at college, bad marriages to abusive men (Michael Romeo Ruocco) and lovers that go no better, bouts of agoraphobia, and Julie clinging to whatever is the next spirituality trend with guru’s who she is convinced can shed light on things. Julie even tries to get a convicted murderer, Thomas Thompson (Jon Kovac), off death row. She becomes a painter and playwright as she puts everything and everyone before her daughter Jill (Santina Umbach). She has a great relationship with her grandson Jason (Brandon Timmons), but not so much with her granddaughter Nina (Holly Cinnamon). Julie, you see, is the writer, director, and star of this play. Jane, who starts off dead in a coffin from cancer, sticks around haunting Julie, who throws off sarcastic barbs.
Dear Jane is beyond confusing, starting with the fact she is supposed to be around 80 while Ms. Piersol is around 30. Plus, this show is all about Julie and not Jane.
During the course of the show, Julie is constantly rewriting, as if to get a better ending. This wouldn’t be so bad if the dialogue wasn’t so cliché and trite.
Who does succeed here are the actors. Piersol makes you care about Julie, which is no easy task considering the writing. Ms. Umbach lets us see Julie from Jill’s perspective. As the ex-lover and husband, Mr. Ruocco lets us see the humanity in such abusive men. Mr. Timmons is nimble as he cartwheels all over, and Mr. Kovach makes Tommy seem as if Julie is right in trying to get him off.
Katrin Hilbe does a good job in making her actors look good despite this material. John McDermott’s tilted screen allows Gertjan Houben’s projections to shine.
In all honesty, Dear Jane seems written by somebody with dementia and we are expected to make heads or tails out of fragmented thoughts. In the end, I just needed an aspirin.
Dear Jane: Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St., until Aug. 26th.