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3/16/2023     THE MANY WONDROUS REALITIES OF JASMINE STARR-KIDD          Alliance Theatre                              


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So, If you suddenly had the ability to go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?  Fix a long-held regret?  Right an historical wrong?  Avoid a careless accident?   Show off to your teen-age peers your “from-the-future” wisdom?  Get a missed stage entrance right?


For the record, I see two problems with this question.  The most obvious is, how can you pick just ONE thing to change?  Additionally, any change in the past will effect changes in subsequent events so changing just one thing is probably more impossible than time travel itself.


Fortunately, Stephen Brown, playwright of this year’s terrific Kandeda-winning play, The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd, is more interested in family dynamics than the philosophy of  time-travel physics.  He has constructed a fast-paced and emotionally complex story and the Alliance Theatre (and director Tinashe Kajese-Bolden) have staged it with a maximum of razzle-dazzle, a maximum of on-stage talent, and a minimum of condescension to both audience and young leading character.


Jasmine is a twelve-year genius.  In the privacy of her bedroom, she has constructed and programmed a wall-filling A.I. computer named Grace.  Jasmine’s father Doug is a middle-school science teacher.  Her mother, Kendra, is a genius herself, the author of a theory about time travel, currently touring the world giving TED-talk lectures about her theory.

Doug and Kendra are divorced, and Jasmine and Grace have run every possible scenario to learn how to keep them together.  The ONLY successful scenario would be to go into the past and do … whatever it takes to prevent the divorce.    So Jasmine does what ANY self-respecting 12-year-old would do – finds the solution to her mother’s theory, drafts Uncle Craig to help obtain expensive high-tech equipment, and goes forward into the past!


So, I’d better stop the synopsis here to prevent any spoilers from creeping in and requiring future-me to come back and re-edit this.   Needless to say, one of Jasmine’s father’s lessons is emphasizing the importance of failure in the scientific process, and this play is all about the scientific process.


There are so many compelling character-dynamics and family-dynamics going on here.  Will Jasmine be better off if she succeeds?  Will Doug and Kendra be better together or apart?  Is Uncle Craig willing to sacrifice his own happiness to help Jasmine succeed?  I absolutely love how so many of Jasmine’s assumptions about her parents’ lives (and divorce) are just plain wrong and how many are closer (but not quite) semi-sorta right. 


In the world of Science Fiction, there is a timeworn time-travel debate.  There is the Slaughterhouse-Five “Every Moment in History is Set in Stone” position -- if Jasmine (well, Uncle Craig) is able to do something in the past, nothing in the present will change (because he ALWAYS did that thing in the past).  There is the Marvel Multi-verse position – an infinite number of universes exist in tandem, and if a time-traveler changes something, we branch off into a new universe.  And there’s the “Time is a River” position – changing the past will change the present (with its “Butterfly Effect” Corollary – the farther back in time you go, the better the odds that even ridiculously trivial changes – like accidentally killing a butterfly – will eventually lead to catastrophic changes in the present).


I won’t say which position Mr. Brown takes, or even IF he takes a position (there is some ambivalency here), but Jasmine (and Grace) are definitely of the “Time is a River” school. 


This is truly a memorable production, filled with wonderful effects and design elements, and performed by actors rapturously ripping into their roles (perhaps multiple versions of roles?) with gusto and joy.  Leading the charge is Penny Schick as Jasmine, a whirling dervish of an actor who brings enough energy to … well … to power a time machine.  She is on stage for almost the entire play, interacting (for much of the show) with a flashing wall of light (for the record, Grace is terrifically voiced by Sydney Terry).  Ms. Schick very ably handles complex lines of physics theory, statistics, and, let’s be honest, techno-babble, without losing the heart and soul of the character – a kid who misses her Mom.


Jeremy Aggers (Doug), Dana Deveaux (Kendra), and Brandon Burditt (Uncle Charlie) are the adults in Jasmine’s orbit, and they are all a mammoth tapestry of strengths and neuroses and passions and surprises.   Filling out the cast is Joe Knezevich in a video cameo (filmed live) as a goofy Department of Defense Corporal who manages to justify sending out a multi-million-dollar laser.


The well-honed acting ensemble is matched (and meshes smoothly with) a well-honed tech ensemble – Scene and Projection Designer Caite Hevner (who achieves the unpossible task of making a High-Tech computer and a Time Machine look like they belong in a 12-year-old’s bedroom), Shilla Benning’s costumes (which show two distinct versions of Doug’s wardrobe as well as a sublimely silly Haz-Mat Suit and Bathrobe combination), Ben Rawson’s lights and Christopher Darbassie’s sound which combine to give us a series of credible bursts of time distortion and electrical grid overload.


Time Travel is a favorite Science Fiction staple of mine, so I went into this show with high expectations, all of which were easily met.   Jasmine is a unique character, a kid who is both exceptional and recognizable – brilliant with science and computers, clueless with emotions and family.  Her journey, her realities, her education are the joy of this journey, and they are all exciting realities indeed!


To sum up Mr. Brown’s well-developed thesis, we only need quote a line from this week’s episode of {Deleted by the They’re not Paying us to Promote them Police}, “You can never go back in time to right a wrong, but you can always do the right thing moving forward.”


    --  Brad Rudy  (    #AllianceTheatre    #JasmineStarrKidd)

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