Jake has a wife from whom he's separated, a girlfriend who's much younger and a no-nonsense female shrink. If that's not complicated enough, Jake's sister, daughter and former wife keep popping up, sometimes in the flesh and sometimes in his imagination.

It sounds traumatic, but Neil Simon worked Jake's torment into a comedy that Longview Stageworks will stage starting Friday.

Jake is "constantly carrying on imaginary conversations," said director Jesse Merz. The audience gets to see the figments of Jake's imagination.

"Jake's Women" revolves around a neurotic, 53-year-old novelist played by V. Spencer Page of Beaverton, Ore., Page is an attorney turned professional actor with a master of fine arts degree in acting and directing.

Page said Jake struggles to come to grips with the real world, and with the women from his past arriving frequently in flashbacks. "My principle war with myself is 'Am I going to sink too deep into my imaginary world?' " Page said of his character.

Longview native Theresa Koon, an actor and opera singer who lives in Portland, plays Jake's current wife. "I'm playing three aspects of the same person," Koon said — the real woman, the way Jake imagines her and his memory of the way she was when they met.

Separated after eight years of childless marriage, Jake is seeing a younger, tightly wound professional woman played by Kelly Hanson of Vancouver.

"A lot of people will relate to (the play) really well because it will jar things in their memories," Hanson said.

Susan Donahue of Longview plays Jake's bossy sister. "I only appear in his imagination and I irritate him," Donahue said.

The play is "so funny at times and so heartbreaking at others," Donahue said. "It's a beautiful balance of comedy and pathos."

Donahue's most recent local stage appearance was the starring role in Mainstage Theatre's "Playing for Time."

Dori Pulse of Castle Rock plays Jake's psychiatrist. "I'm a shrink with an attitude," not tolerating Jake's complaining, said Pulse, who's making her acting debut.

Laurel Merz of Kelso, who has appeared in several Stageworks productions, plays Jake's deceased first wife, Julie. "He's very idealistic when he brings Julie back," Merz said, though gradually Jake comes to remember her imperfections, too.

Two actors play Jake's daughter. Megan Galbraith of Longview, who appeared in Stageworks' "Bye Bye Birdie," is the younger version. "I was very sarcastic," Galbreath said of her role.

The grown-up daughter is played by Angie Leaf of Vancouver. "I'm the rock is his life," Leaf said. "He turns to me as a constant source of where he can get love."

Jesse Merz said he's liked the play since he saw it about 10 years in New York. Jake is "trying to do his best, trying to follow his heart."

Simon weaves it all together well, Merz said. "His real talent is contrasting the comedy with the very real moments."

If you go

What: Longview Stageworks production of Neil Simon comedy "Jake's Women"

When: 8 p.m. Friday and then Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays through May 12. The Friday show this week is a benefit for the Longview Stageworks Guild. Tickets cost $20. Call Sally Kiggins at 425-7752.

Where: Pepper Studio Theatre. Also May 17-26 at the Columbia Arts Center in Vancouver.

Tickets: $15 evenings, $9 matinees, 10 percent discount for students and seniors. All seats $7 at 2 p.m. April 27. 575-8499 or 1-888-423-8499.

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