Since “Dear Jane,” means so much personally to its author, Joan Beber, it is sad to report that the play is such a shambles.
In a program note, Beber explains: “'Dear Jane,’ is my most meaningful play. It is about me and my identical twin, she died ten years ago. We adored and hated and adored each other. She was first born and first to die.
“She teaches me how to live and how to die.
“I always think: what would Jane do or say?”
Perhaps Jane would have had some advice on how to better approach the tribute. What we see is what appears to be a troupe of actors gradually assembling on a stage and structuring what seems to be a play within a play. There is the early introduction of a rolled in coffin, from which Amanda Rose playing Jane cheerfully pops up.
Actually, the largest role is that of Julie, emphatically played by Jenny Piersol, a character presumably a stand-in for the playwright. Developments include characters meant to be offspring in the fluctuating drama that flips back and forth in time. The program specifies from 1952 to the present, but there is also reference to the late forties. The competent cast includes Santina Umbach, Holly Cinnamon, Michael Romeo Ruocco, Jon Kovach and Brandon Timmons.
There is some humor in portrayal of different generations. But under the direction of Katrin Hilbe, most remains a jumble committed to the playwright’s impressionistic, performance art style of interweaving imagination and reality in an apparent effort to be creatively entertaining and meaningful.
But the writing and staging combine to deprive the play of convincing emotion. How can one feel for any of the characters or Jane when the form of the concoction can leave an audience head-scratching in an effort to assemble the ingredients and figure out what it all means? At the Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street. Reviewed July 27, 2017.