Below is a Recollection–this is not a review (see the review here), but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in Have You Seen Jake’s Therapy & Dreams in December of 2016 and January of 2017. As this event will not occur again, do not worry about reading spoilers. Therapy & Dreams is Have You Seen Jake’s first ticketed event in which participants are trying to find and understand Jake, a forgotten friend. In this show, we seek out his previous therapist and self-reflect on our own past and memories in a surreal and personalized experience.
See below for the perspective of a second time through the show as it was altered for repeat customers.
By Max Droegemueller
A brisk wind rustles the trees as I walk towards a park in a residential area of Irvine. It’s dark out, and a cold blue light in the heart of the park can easily be seen. Nervously eyeing every shadowed corner, I march over the leaves and to the light–a lantern on a park bench. Soon enough, I spot a woman walking down the path towards me. She warmly introduces herself as Dr. Eileen Roberts, counseling psychologist, and my therapist for tonight. She shares with me a blanket and hand warmers as she sets a timer, and begins our session.
I had previously filled out an intake form for her, and she proceeds to read through it. We talk about my life and career and in particular about my desire to make the “hard choices” in my life. Eventually the conversation moves to Jake, my purpose for seeing her. Dr. Roberts is familiar with Jake, and is concerned as I am that he’s gone missing, and even more so at my amnesia of events involving him. However, when I explain that my search for Jake has put me in contact with some strange and potentially dangerous people, I am met with confusion. Dr. Roberts eyes me quizzically as I try to explain the threatening phone calls I receive at night, or my encounters with people like Them, the horde of animal-mask wearing sadists, or She, a venomous, mysterious girl. I mean- it sounds silly- and it’s difficult to feel sane when a psychologist is eyeing you. We laugh at the absurdity of my situation, and I almost don’t notice an approaching bystander.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Dr. Roberts chimes in and is cut off-
“Not you. You, Max.” He looks directly at me. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
The man quickly comes close and I am gripped against the bench, roughly.
“You think you’re going to fucking find Jake? Well you won’t. You don’t know what’s coming.”
He pushes off me suddenly, and storms off across the park. Dr. Roberts and I are in shock- the man knew my name, and about Jake!
To clear the air, Dr. Roberts takes me on a walk through the park. I inquire a bit about Jake, and learn he had sessions with Dr. Roberts at the very bench we were just sitting at. I also learn of Jake’s “dynamic” nature, one that shows him both as an extrovert capable of making many joyful friendships, and as introvert capable of hiding deep issues. I ponder this contradiction as Dr. Roberts takes me to a car. She explains she has been trying a new form of treatment. Patients too often return back to their lives without fully reflecting on their sessions, so she has arranged for a car to pick me up while I self-reflect. She hands me a blindfold as the car pulls up, and I sit in the passenger seat.
“River” by Joni Mitchell plays inside, and I can’t help but relax to it and the warmth of the car. After a few minutes the ride stops, and I am led, still blindfolded, into a house. Inside, I’m told that to my left is a bed, and that I am to undress to a level I’m comfortable with and go to sleep. I undress to my boxers and socks and crawl into the bed. The lights around me dim, and the ceiling is illuminated with stars.
“Hey,” A warm voice says next to me.
A lamp on the nightstand is switched on, revealing a blonde woman lying in bed next to me. The girl—named Hope–rolls over, and asks how my therapy session went. She is happy I went, and thinks it’s a good step forward. The familiarity of how she is speaking to me is both comforting yet eerie—she sounds like how a partner would speak to me. Pleased with my progress, Hope exits the room to read a little, and tells me not to wait up for her. She turns off the lamp—and I lie back down as darkness fills the room again.
The voice of Mr. S, a conspiritorial, almost cartoon-like man, cuts through the room. I am happy to hear him, and he tells me he has a surprise as childish laughter erupts from all sides of the room. Sprightly figures in morphsuits appear, and comically reveal a painted stage to my right. Mr. S asks me to stand upon it, and giggles burst around me as I comply. I’m near naked on a stage, and it’s both embarrassing and hilarious. Mr. S asks me to sing “Oh Susanna” but changes the lyrics in a foul way. Unfortunately, I don’t know the song, and instead Mr. S asks me to demonstrate a sexual position, complete with morphsuit helpers acting as “props.” It’s funny and perverse in equal measure, but my laughter is muffled as a hood is put over my head.
I’m led to a new room and made to sit as my hands are lifted over my head… I’m being restrained, and quickly cannot move my legs or arms.
“Max…. you came….”
With a quavering voice, Bossman, leader of Them, approaches from behind and grips me tightly. The lights are lifted, and I am shown a toolshed full of equipment and a naked man in a giraffe mask. Bossman explains his friend is named Rock Climber, and they are here to help me “pay my debt.” Bossman begins to choke me and smears blood over my mouth, against my teeth, and onto my bare body. I become queasy, and my attempts at resisting are met with only more choking. Rock Climber grabs a hammer, and proceeds to scrape the claw end against my thigh, causing slow, painful scratches. Bossman slaps my body as he proceeds to tease me, remarking that I have a “soft spot” and that he might use it to see how much “darkness” I have inside. To this end, Rock Climber grabs a chisel and lightly, but painfully hammers it upon parts of my body.
I am shaking and choking as Rock Climber attempts to place a ball gag in my mouth. I cough violently—the blood sets off my gag reflex—and Rock Climber mercifully relents. Instead, he reveals three boxes and their contents: a box cutter, a blow torch, and a large rock. Bossman offers me a choice:
“Cut, burn, or bludgeon?”
Reluctantly, I choose burn, and Rock Climber proceeds to ignite the torch and bring it closer and closer to my face. An inch before it reaches my face, another hood is thrown over my face, my restraints removed, and I am pulled into the darkness.
My hood is removed, and I find myself in a cozy bar—but I am nearly naked, covered in blood, and shaking. Heather a friend of Jake’s, (and who I met previous at the Bars and Hotels show) is sitting across from me. She asks me how I’ve been doing as a kindly bartender named Buoy pours a glass of wine for me and provides some bar snacks. The three of us happily chat, and I discover I am at the Somber Giraffe, a favorite bar of Heather and Jake’s. I know a secret phrase to say from a puzzle posted on Instagram, so I say it—and Heather -almost robotically- tells me that Jake’s parents moved from New York to CA, a little bit north of here, near the water. This is a clue! Heather returns to normal, and introduces me to Steve, her boyfriend— a live snake. We speak of Jake, and her worries for him. There is real compassion in her voice and it is moving. Her charming nature reassures me, and I finally stop shaking. But I don’t even have time to finish my drink because I am hooded again.
I am taken to a bed, and laid down. The hood is lifted and a full cast of animal masks—members of Them—loom over me.
“Do you know where you are? You’re in the hospital! You’re about to give birth!”
Water is splashed in my face as medical equipment surrounds me, and my legs are lifted into a birthing position. A heartbeat monitor pulses—and I feel a pinch on my arm as an IV line is taped to it. I am told to push, and I push as doctors surround me, speaking in foreign languages ranging from Japanese to French. An oxygen mask is placed over my nose and mouth, and one of the doctors plugs my nose as he exclaims “he needs more oxygen.” I continue to push, and start to feel claustrophobic in the chaos around me. They tell me to push one last time, and it is met with “It’s a boy!” A pink balloon is placed in my arms, and I enjoy my “child” for only a moment before I hear the heartbeat monitor flatline. The room returns to chaos and my child pops, splashing blood all over of my face and body. Them freeze, and a portrait next to the bed is illuminated: it’s She. She is a mysterious driving force in this experience that has a vested interest in keeping Jake missing… and little is known about her. I ponder the significance of her image appearing here as the room goes dark.
I then hear the voice of Blue, our guide in the search party and Jake’s prominent father figure. He witnessed the events of the night, and advises me to exercise “measured curiosity” in the future as he places a blue marble into my hand.
When the lights return, I find I am in the original bed, fresh sheets covering my bare body. Hope is again at my side. She playfully remarks at my bloody, wet condition and instructs me to get dressed as we idly chat about dreams and their meanings. When I am ready, I am once again blindfolded and led to the car. “Dark Parts” by Perfume Genius plays as I am driven back to the original park. The driver sways the car to the music, and once again I can’t help but relax and reflect on the night. The car stops, and the driver asks for my blindfold. I remove it, and hand it to the very man who accosted me in the park! I glimpse a slight smile on his face as I exit the car, and return to the cold, windy night with more questions than ever.
By Taylor Winters
An opportunity was presented for members of the search party to participant a second time. After buy tickets, the organizers informed us that our show would be altered. Here is a recount of my second time through Therapy & Dreams.
My therapy session started much like the last time—Dr. Roberts, counseling therapist, have another session in a residential park in Irvine. The session focuses on my earliest childhood memories of disappointment, and unlike my first show, we are not approached by the strange man who challenged my efforts to find Jake. I ask Dr. Roberts about Jake, and she reluctantly tells me that he was her patient for a time, and they were making progress in their sessions until he stopped showing up. Similar to the last session, she leads me out of the park to her unusual method of post-therapy treatment: an Uber, and a blindfold to wear as I climb in the car and am driven away.
The driver is listening to “Putting The Damage On” by Tori Amos. We arrive at our location, the car is parked, and I wait. After a minute, my blindfold is raised and I can see that my driver now wears an armadillo animal mask.
“So you get in the car with Them too.”
Coyly comparing me to Heather (see the Bars & Hotels), the armadillo smirks as he lowers my blindfold once more.
I am led into a house, and like before I am encouraged to undress as much as comfortable and crawl into bed. But, this time there is a purple bar on the bed, and whiskey on the table. The lights dim, and the stars on the ceiling come out as I hear a crash from outside and Sniffles, Jake’s sister, comes stumbling in.
“You really need to call if you’re going to show up my bed in the middle of the night.”
Sniffles seems intoxicated, but seems happy to see me. We exchange pleasantries, and she tells me that I have one hour to sleep and then she will call me an Uber back—and that I owe her fifty bucks for the evening.
As I drift asleep, Mr. S’s voice booms in the darkness. But this time, he doesn’t use my name. No, I am Jake. I climb onto the stage, recalling the many dreams Jake has had of being on stage. Girls in morphsuits giggle at me as I stand in front of the blinding lights, and Mr. S reminds me that Jake–myself in this situation—is an excellent dancer.
“Why don’t you Foxtrot for me, Jake?”
I do not know the dance, so I tell him. He doesn’t seem to care, and moves on to Jake’s love of puzzles. The morphsuit girls spring into action, and begin to pelt me with puzzle pieces. I manage to grab a few, and the pelting begins to hurt as a blindfold is placed on my head, and I am led away.
I feel the familiar tug of arm and leg restraints as I struggle to see through my hood. In the distance, I hear an audio track—it’s a personalized poem to me from Jake. I listen intently, but my concentration is broken as Rock Climber, a member of Them in a giraffe mask- threatens to remove my fingernails with pliers and squeezes them painfully. Bossman, the leader of Them, asks why I returned, and through the intense pain, I manage to explain it was for Jake, to understand him better.
Bossman and Rock Climber remove my hood, and I am now able to examine the room. It is a toolshed like before, but this time, a man in boxers and a hood sits across from me. Rock Climber undoes my restraints.
“Are you ready to join us?”
I am unsure if I am ready to join Them—but if this is what it takes to understand Jake, I am willing to try. I stand up, and Rock Climber holds out a hammer. The man in the chair is shaking uncontrollably, and I wonder if it is a member of our search party—he resembles a friend I know went through the event slightly before me, and it is unnerving. I nervously grasp the hammer as I ask who the man is, and Bossman tells me his name is Zero.
I hesitate for just a second, wondering what action I should take, and—
The Have You Seen Jake safeword is called, and the scene transforms around my eyes. The lights turn on, and Bossman and Rock Climber adopt regular, panicked voices. Bossman instructs me to sit in the chair. Multiple other voices shout that a safety was called and for someone to get in there. I wonder if this is an act, an actor designed to break the fourth wall, but it feels so real. And all I can feel is a tinge of guilt.
A man rushes over to Zero:
“My name is Arnold, are you okay? Can I get you anything?”
Bossman again yells, “Can someone get a hood on Taylor? Goddammit, he fucked everything up.”
A hood is placed on my head, and a woman tells me to stand up and she’s going to get me out of here so they can help. I am lead out of the room, and hear Bossman remark:
“Taylor, didn’t even say sorry. He ruined this.”
I realize it’s all an act to make me feel like I failed another person; I made them safety. The chaos of the scene and the residual guilt fills my head as I am led into the next room: the Somber Giraffe.
I barely have time to reflect on the previous scene because Heather, Jake’s friend, sits in front of me and the bartender Buoy is ready to pour me a drink. Heather tells me that it’s the first New Year’s she has spent without Jake, and seems lonely. But then a moment of excitement flashes across her face: she has friends of Jake’s she’d like me to meet!
She introduces me to Winston, a gigantic Pomelo, Martha, a spoon with a beautifully drawn face on it, and Hector, a felt caterpillar. These are some of Jake’s oldest friends—friends from when he lives in Oyster Bay. Hector crawls up my leg, and almost up into my boxers—as Heather nervously laughs, and asks me to excuse his lewd behavior. Winston leaves the bar as a member of Them in a frog mask appears and grabs him. He then proceeds to beat him with a crowbar. Seemingly unaware of the Frog, the girls laugh as Winston is rubbed against my bare chest and ends up in my drink. The dream is surreal and entertaining—and I am thoroughly enjoying myself until a hood is thrown over my head and I am pulled away.
I am placed on the hospital bed, and asked if I know where I am, and I do—but this time I am not giving birth. No, I need a heart transplant and the donor is sitting next to me on the bed. It is Zero—the man from the toolshed. The IV is placed in my arm, and a liquid is splashed across my face. I choke on it, and a cloth is placed over my face. The oxygen mask is next. My breathing is obstructed as I am asked to count back from a hundred. I start to count out loud through the hand over my mouth. A marker violent scratches across my chest and more blood is splatted across it. Tape is placed over my chest, and I grip Zero’s hand tightly.
But like the birthing scene, it ends in tragedy. Zero’s heart is rejected, and the picture of She, the mysterious woman that haunts the search party, is illuminated on the wall.
As I stare at the picture I hear sounds of the ocean. Zero’s lifeless body is removed from the bed. Blue, our wonderful guide, speaks from the darkness and tells me I am appreciated as he slips a Japanese gummy candy in my hand. I feel sheets being placed over my body, and the lights shift. I am back in bed and Sniffles is waking me up.
“Has it been an hour already?”
She tells me to get my clothes on and she’ll lead me outside. We talk of the search for Jake and our personal lives—much like old friends, until she hands me my blindfold again. I am led to the car, and driven back to that dark and cold park I started at.
HYSJ will present two more shows: Water & Fire in February, and Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow in March. More information on HYSJ and their shows can be found here.