Friday, June 29, 2007

Domo Arigato

It took until closing weekend to do, but I finally made it to Collaboraction's The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, and I've got but one question. Am I the only person in the city who doesn't see the appeal? Aside from Tom Williams, that is (insert ellipses for effect). Last night's performance got close to half of a standing ovation from a near sell out crowd, and I just sat there, baffled, and even moreso because I had been really looking forward to this one.

Rolin Jones' play seems to be from the school of thought that if you have a clever concept and can write a few witty non-sequiters and character moments, you're all set and simply need to sprinkle in a few paint-by-numbers emotional scenes (also peppered with witty character nudges) to fill the show out a bit. The bitch of the whole thing is that because we're dealing with well-proven stock emotional situations, a play can work despite a lack of any insight as long as there's a good cast propelling it. But I didn't even get that in Jenny Chow.

Jennifer Shin had a lot to do in the lead role and handled the load well, and when left to her own devices (which was much of the time) was quite engaging. But the moment she began to interact with others (especially Laura T. Fisher as her adoptive mother), the honesty seemed to fly out the window conveniently placed back center. Meanwhile, the supporting cast struggled, although valiantly, to make good of the late 90s humor they were there to provide. (I'm certain there are still hilarious jokes about Mormons, stoners, and premature ejaculation, but it seems to me we should be coming to a point where you have to do a little more than mention them to make people laugh.) Towards the end of the show -- which, by the way, couldn't resolve itself out of a wet paper bag -- I was starting to wonder if maybe the part of my brain that judges quality wasn't just having a wonky night, when Ian Forrester, in his last scene as the quasi-boyfriend, pulled himself out of his affected Cali stoner doldrums and broke my heart. Which made it that much harder to forgive the rest of the show.

For me, at least. The ladies to my left, who stood almost immediately, might have a different story to tell.


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