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Theatre Review: The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Jennifer is a petite 20-something who lives through her laptop, seldom leaving her bedroom, yet networking with people worldwide – some of them very powerful. Jennifer is also adopted. Her parents are white, Jennifer is Asian, and she’s keenly aware that she’s different.
“Anyway, since I was a girl, and I guess that’s not the best thing to be in China, my mother wrapped me up in a silk scarf and put me up for adoption. Six months later, my parents got in a plane and came to get me, so really, you know, thank God for Richard Nixon and all that. (Laughter)."
This girl is a total techie, to the point that the story sometimes resembles a comic book. In the tradition of superheroes with unique abilities, Jennifer is so smart she can troubleshoot missile systems in her spare time, and still keep her Mom in the dark.
“I got it.”
“It’s the Army. I am not even going to ask.”
“Is this Hardwick Intelligent Logistics?”
“Huh? Oh yes.”
“I’m trying to reach the CEO, Miss Jennifer Marcus.”
“Ah yeah, that’s me. Sorry about that, That was our temp. She’s older, and well, not used to working in our industry.”
“I see.”
What really drives this show is actress Sylvia Kwan. She illuminates Jennifer’s growing determination to locate the Chinese birth mother who put her up for adoption. That urge – balanced by Jennifer’s compulsive fear of leaving the house, sets up the arc of this comedy, as Jennifer secretly designs a high tech homemade robot to go into the world on her behalf. It’s really all about a search for an adult identity – something that any parent with a nerdy, uncertain kid can relate to. The play’s unlikely combination of fantasized do-it-yourself technology and everyday family tensions is effervescent, and sometimes rude as well, since Jennifer swears like a sailor. After many years of romantic comedies at the B Street, this well-executed show about loving parents trying to help their talented but awkward daughter into adulthood is a refreshing change. 

(music out, Thomas Dolby, “She Blinded Me With Science.”)

“The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow” plays through February 13 at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento as part of the B-3 Series.
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