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Julia Mackey as Jake  Photo: Tim Matheson
Julia Mackey as Jake Photo: Tim Matheson

Theatre Review: "Jake's Gift" at the Thousand Islands Playhouse

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For more than 6 years, actor/playwright Julia Mackey has been traveling across Canada to perform "Jake's Gift." Most recently the show was translated and Julia learned French to perform "Jake's Gift" in Normandy at the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

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A Canadian WW2 Veteran on Juno Beach on 60th Anniversary of D-Day 2004 - Photo by Julia Mackey with Graphic Design by Dirk Van Stralen
A Canadian WW2 Veteran on Juno Beach on 60th Anniversary of D-Day 2004 - Photo by Julia Mackey with Graphic Design by Dirk Van Stralen
“Jake’s Gift,” a one-woman show written and performed by Julia Mackey, is a powerful tribute to Canadian veterans, specifically those who participated in the World War II D-Day landing on Juno Beach.  Inspired by her trip to Normandy in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Miss Mackey and Director Dirk Van Stralen created Juno Productions to present and tour this piece across Canada.  As Americans we hear mostly about Omaha Beach.  It’s good to be reminded that our neighbors to the North also had a major part in the landings.

The two main characters are Jake, a veteran in his 70s who has returned for his first visit to Juno Beach since the war and Isabelle, a lively and inquisitive 10 year-old French girl.  As they gradually become friends, Jake is finally able to come to terms with his past.

Julia Mackey relies mostly on body language and her voice to delineate the believable character changes between the irrepressible Isabelle and the initially grumpy Jake. Using only a bench, a small table and a suitcase she makes both the story and relationship easy to follow.  She’s ably assisted by Gerald King’s sensitive lighting, especially in the scene where Jake puts on his uniform jacket.

Perhaps my favorite giggle scene early on is Jake’s attempt to explain a knock-knock joke to Isabelle.  Then of course there’s the scene where Jake dances to a Sinatra song – a lovely combination of nostalgia and humor.

Director Van Stralen and Miss Mackey have used popular songs of the period to surround and infuse the piece.  “Jake’s Gift” grows to a sensitive and moving conclusion without ever becoming maudlin.

Veterans on both sides of the border should see this play.  I defy anyone who’s a veteran or who knows one not to be moved by “Jake’s Gift.”

On a scale of one to five the Juno Productions production of “Jake’s Gift” presented by the 1000 Islands Playhouse gets four and two-thirds dalmations.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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