Review: Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal is a one-person show written and performed by Melissa Center in a set dressed with a sofa, a screen, sunflowers. Melissa’s mother sees the Hollywood star as an eligible (half) Jewish man – successful, young, available – for her, just out of a ten-year relationship.

Punchy, lively, and anchored by a skewed sense of reality, Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal revels in its own absurdity, pushing fairytale and fate to one side. It revels in the unusual, the coincidental, and the awkward.

Locations are flagged on the screen, to anchor us in place and give us a sense of time. Furnishings are functional and recognisable, and the stage is quickly and cleverly transformed into a suggestion of other locations.

There are songs, which are threaded into the plot: short, but to the point, with cutting and presient lyrics. Elsewhere, sound effects are cleverly used to pinpoint scenes such as a busy bar.

Screencap from Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal

Center’s play contains a wide range of reference point. There are stories of stalking, of having one’s story treated with derision, Of joining in the dating scene via Bunble. Of the trusting frog, swimming free in a cooking pot; the friend casually meeting a doctor online.

Melissa’s self-awareness firmly keeps this play moving, and the production values are extremely high.

This isn’t really a piece about Gyllenhaal – he’s a peripheral and unseen character – but instead about Melissa’s journey in life and how she navigates her own romantic minefield and the influence of her family.

Screencap from Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal

This is a sweet and sometimes very funny piece which is honest about family and human connections. It’s about pushy mothers, cultural norms, and individual choice.

Directed by Michelle Bossy, this is a gem of a show, with music by Jamie Buxton to accompany Center’s lyrics. Her movement is choreographed by Patrick McCullom, and the set is designed by Ben Knox, with projections by Nick Santiago.

Fringe rating: ****

Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal streams at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 6 August as part of Online@TheSpaceUK’s fourth season. Book your ticket here.