- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
A play about a young woman afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disease, and so deeply agoraphobic that she rarely leaves her Calabasas house and can’t hold a job is a tragedy, no doubt. And then there’s the robot.
But the play, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow! An Instant Message with Excitable Music, currently at the Long Beach Playhouse (it opened May 19), is anything but a tragedy. It is instead an often hilarious, always funny and genuinely moving play about Jennifer Marcus (a.k.a. Jenny Chow, played with restrained brilliance by Jennifer Jung) who wants to find her birth mother, whose in remarkably brilliant and who builds her own robot just to fly for her to China to meet that mother.
Directed by Sean F. Gray, who recently directed The Universe of Matt Jennings upstairs at the LB Playhouse, Jenny Chow is set on a brightly lit (thanks to Light Designer Daniel Bergher) immediately charming set (by Naomi Kashahara) that sets you in a happy, positive mood. That positive mood continues through the fast-moving play. Everyone is likeable, from Jenny’s would-be boyfriend, Todd the pizza delivery boy (Andrew Pedroza), to her parents Mr. Marcus (Jaimz Woolvett) and Adele (Susan E. Taylor). Amd her mentor Dr. Yakunin (Skip Blas.) too. But then there is that robot. The other Jenny Chow, played with bright humor by Sayaka Miyatani, the Jenny who flies off to China to find her creator’s birth mother.[slideshow]
Jenny Marcus was adopted by a retired fireman and a company executive, when she was a baby, and had a wonderful life through high school, though she secretly suffered from mental health issues. After high school, she descended into a world where she lives on her computer. It makes her room “A cathedral,” she says. She finds a Mormon missionary who is in China (Pedroza again, in a very funny black-rimmed glasses transformation) and seduces him, with a little cyber-sex and a lot of friendly banter, into finding her first mother. But she can’t leave her house because of her agoraphobia. So she uses her contact with Dr. Yakunin, who knows how bright she is, to get work reprogramming space satellites in return for spare robot parts from NASA. Jenny Chow, the robot, is the result, along with a very affecting story that combines not only her story but her parents in a bright, airy fantasy that you wish could be true.
The story isn’t true or at least we haven’t heard about it. But its the best news… heck, the only news from Calabasas lately, and you’ll love every minute. Gray uses the whole stage, including a few surprises, and the bright stage colors just add to the story’s charm. Go see it.
Tickets are $24, $21 for seniors, $14 for students. Performances are Friday, May 25 at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27 at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 16.
Details: (562) 494-1014, www.lbplayhouse.org
Venue: Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre
Location: 5021 East Anaheim St., Long Beach